Four decisions Maurizio Sarri must make at Chelsea before the start of the season

Friday, August 10, 2018

Chelsea’s season was in danger of being derailed before it had even begun
READ ALSO:Mateo Kovacic deal may be OFF - shock claim made on transfer twist

The club was left in limbo during the continuing bitter dispute with former manager Antonio Conte, an on-going tussle which threatened to leave the Blues behind in the arms race that is the summer transfer window. 

But Chelsea, in the only way they know how, have since appointed one of the most progressive coaches in Europe, hijacked Manchester City’s move for their first-choice midfield target, signed the most-expensive goalkeeper in world football and now all seems well at Stamford Bridge summer move for £160m PSG star prompted Man Utd transfer rethink Yet, Sarri has only had the best part of four weeks to implement his intense tactical framework on his new Chelsea squad.

 Here’s four decisions he has to make before Saturday’s game against Huddersfield to ensure his work-in-progress continues to move forward.

 Filling the Marek Hamsik-shaped hole Cesc Fabregas will probably fill the ‘Hamsik role’ in the early part of the season (Getty Images) One of the features of Sarri’s attacking-orientated team shape at Napoli was the freedom and effectiveness of Hamsik in front of a midfield double-pivot and behind a mobile front three.

 His talismanic performances at the Stadio San Paolo were one of the main reasons Napoli came so close to toppling the dominance of Juventus in Serie A.
 It’s fair to assume Jorginho, the deep-lying conductor, and N’Golo Kante, the all-action ball winner, will be first-choice operators in the two slots at the base of midfield, leaving Sarri to pick one out of Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Mateo Kovacic to play the more advanced role. 

In terms of raw player profile, Barkley (or a previous version of him) has got more in common with Hamsik than any of his peers. 

He has the lungs to be able to join the attack but remain in contact with the two behind him. His ability to carry the ball and dribble past opponents is also highly desirable. 

What he lacks is any kind of form over the past two years which suggests he won’t fall flat if given the huge opportunity.

 Loftus-Cheek, similarly, will be unlikely to get the nod from Sarri due to his inexperience. The fact he did not leave the club in some capacity during the window remains a mystery.

 Fabregas has the pedigree, but not the legs. He could fill the role in the opening weeks of the season but it is beyond the realms of possibility the Spaniard, for all his creative contribution, can operate in the role for a 38-game season. That leaves Kovacic.

 He only arrived at the club this week but he has the tools to do the best possible Hamsik impersonation if he manages to impress Sarri enough in his first few weeks of training.

 But Chelsea could end up spending 12 months crafting him into the role only to see him return to Madrid a better player. 

Insert Hazard as a false nine It’s time for Eden Hazard to move to the next level (Getty Images) Another one of Sarri’s notable success stories was the transformation of Dries Mertens from a very good winger into an exceptional central goalscorer. 

Unlike the Hamsik situation, there is one clear, outstanding candidate to step into that role: Eden Hazard.

 The Belgian is at somewhat of a crossroads in his career. His move to Real Madrid did not materialise and despite a third-placed finished, he would have expected a bit more from himself at the World Cup.

 Now is the time to do something different to catapult himself into genuine Ballon d’Or contention and he could not have asked for a better manager to manage his much-needed transformation. 

If Hazard can make that shift in-field, similar to how Gareth Bale did under Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs, then the Premier League could be his for the taking. 
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