Sarri has immediate chance to gain momentum with Chelsea in Community Shield
The new manager of the London club goes up against the Premier League champions on Sunday at Wembley Stadium
The score stands at 23-0. Pep Guardiola’s managerial career has yielded 23 trophies. Maurizio Sarri’s is yet to produce any; not in top-tier football, anyway.
The Community Shield’s importance can be debated amid a suspicion it often matters more to one team. On Sunday, it surely matters more to one manager.
“It is very important to immediately have a trophy,” said Sarri. He would benefit from the early endorsement victory would lend.
Guardiola’s authority would not be dented by defeat. This is more of a fitness exercise for Manchester City and a competitive outing for Chelsea.
It reflects the managerial situations, but also much of the context. Such are the standards City set last season that fringe players have every incentive to impress.
Yet there are more with a point to prove at Chelsea. City’s youngsters excelled when they played their part in beating Bayern Munich last week, but Chelsea’s side should feature more seniority and solidity.
Sarri will be road-testing his new-look 4-3-3. “The team already plays like he wants,” said Guardiola.
Sarri’s players have reasons to show they belong in the system. Alvaro Morata set the tone for a traumatic debut season in England by missing a penalty in last year’s Community Shield.
He remains at Chelsea, despite talk of a move to AC Milan, and the out-of-sorts Spaniard has given up the No 9 shirt. He may lose his place in due course. Gonzalo Higuain, who instead joined Milan, said Sarri wanted him at Chelsea.
David Luiz went from being a player revived by Antonio Conte to one rejected by the manager Chelsea sacked. He now looks set to be restored to the centre of the defence.
The January acquisition Ross Barkley has made more starts in pre-season for Sarri than he did in meaningful matches for his predecessor. Misfit may get the chance to become a perfect fit.
The eye may be drawn to Callum Hudson-Odoi, the Under-17 World Cup winner who could buck a trend. Chelsea have been a footballing factory, loaning out and selling young players.
Sarri has confirmed the teenager old will be part of the squad this season. A star of pre-season should start in Sunday's team, in the stead of Eden Hazard.
He could be outnumbered by the youngsters in City colours. Phil Foden, a starter against Bayern, may get the sort of opportunity rarely afforded to one so inexperienced as Guardiola ponders how many of the 16 City players involved in the World Cup should feature and for how long. Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are two guaranteed to sit this one out.
The Englishman’s absence should work in Riyad Mahrez’s favour. The Algerian has overcome a minor ankle injury and is set to debut.
While winger and holding midfielder are very different footballers, this offers a comparison between a player City wanted to sign and one they did. Mahrez arrived. Had Guardiola got his way, Jorginho would have joined him.
Instead, the Italy international opted to reunite with his Napoli manager Sarri at Stamford Bridge. He turned down champions for FA Cup winners, Uefa Champions League for Europa League. Like his manager, he has a particular reason to impress as he looks to show he made the right decision.
“I want players who want to come here,” Guardiola said. “He didn’t want that.”
The City manager cited Alexis Sanchez, another who took a similar decision in January. Had the Chilean joined, Mahrez would never have arrived.
It is about a knock-on effect. Such games can give momentum, whether good or bad, but City’s key game in London in August is at Arsenal next Sunday, not Wembley Stadium and this encounter.
For Sarri, the chance of silverware looms larger now.
Updated: August 4, 2018 12:03 PM