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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Premier League preview 2018/19 - Chelsea: Maurizio Sarri can galvanise Chelsea back to top four

Richard Jolly is analysing all 20 teams competing in the Premier League and giving his verdict on how they will fare. Here he looks at how Chelsea will adapt to their latest manager in charge

Chelsea won the race to sign Jorginho. Getty Images
Chelsea won the race to sign Jorginho. Getty Images

State of play: Chelsea finally got around to sacking Antonio Conte in July, almost two months after his valedictory win in the FA Cup final.

While his successor, Maurizio Sarri, was lined up, it still means preparations are being rushed, with Chelsea in a state of flux after only completing one major signing, in Jorginho.

Conte and Carlo Ancelotti have shown the difference Italian managers can make in their debut season at Stamford Bridge but Sarri faces the difficulty of a Europa League campaign and improving a mediocre recent record: Chelsea have only won six of their last 16 league games after a year when the majority of players underachieved.

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Key player: Jorginho – The Brazil-born Italy international seemed bound for Manchester City until Chelsea appointed his Napoli manager, Sarri. The £57 million (Dh272m) midfielder boasted an 89.5 per cent pass completion rate in Serie A last season and instigates attacks. It will be instructive how he combines with the all-action N’Golo Kante in the central trio.

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Manager: Maurizio Sarri – An uncharacteristic choice as Chelsea manager, given his lack of trophies, though Napoli posted their record goals and points tallies under his management.

The Italian will bring a switch to his favoured 4-3-3 and should implement a more attacking brand of football but there are questions if some of the players he inherited suit his style of play.

Talking point: How does Sarri cope with unsettled players? Chelsea’s season of discontent has had consequences with Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Alvaro Morata and Willian either eyeing the exit or attracting attention from other clubs.

With Chelsea running out of time to get replacements, the reality is that most could remain at Stamford Bridge. Sarri does not merely have to organise them; he has to galvanise them.

Hazard, who has been outstanding in their last two title-winning seasons, has tended to be a barometer for Chelsea, so drawing the best from the Belgian is a test of the Italian’s man-management.

Prediction: 4th.

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