Chelsea won't play like Napoli: Sarri

Chelsea's head coach Maurizio Sarri looks on before the English Premier League football match between Huddersfield Town and Chelsea at the John Smith's stadium in Huddersfield, on on Aug 11, 2018.
Chelsea's head coach Maurizio Sarri looks on before the English Premier League football match between Huddersfield Town and Chelsea at the John Smith's stadium in Huddersfield, on on Aug 11, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Italian says it will take two months to forge identity, delighted with how his team clicked

LONDON • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri believes it will take two months for his side to be at their best but, on the evidence of their 3-0 win at Huddersfield, any fears of an extended bedding-in period appear to be unfounded.

The Blues endured a turbulent pre-season, with Sarri replacing Antonio Conte less than a month before the new Premier League campaign got under way before the acrimonious departure of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid.

However, there were little signs of turmoil on Saturday as the visitors' greater quality told at the John Smith's Stadium after a slow start.

Sarri was delighted at the way his players clicked despite a lack of training time together following their World Cup exertions.

"The situation until now has been very difficult. On Monday, four players from the World Cup arrived and then on Tuesday, another two, so it's not been easy for me at the moment," he said in a post-match interview.

The world's most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga - who joined from Athletic Bilbao for £72 million (S$126.2 million) last week - could not have asked for a more comfortable debut, with the Spaniard rarely troubled in keeping a clean sheet, but Sarri felt the scoreline flattered Chelsea.

"The game was more difficult than the result. If you see the result, you think it was a very easy match but, in the first half, it was very difficult against physical opponents," the Italian, who opted to throw scorer N'Golo Kante straight into his starting XI just 29 days after starting in France's 4-2 win over Croatia in the World Cup final, said.

And the 59-year-old made it clear that he will not look to simply copy the methods he used at his previous club Napoli.

"I have to know the characteristics of the players," he added. "I don't want to do another Napoli. I want to do a good Chelsea. I have to adapt myself to the characteristics of the championship and the players. Now I study my players."

Sarri also revealed that he now has a month to try to shape his new side to play in the way he wants before midweek Europa League games are added to the Premier League mix.

Eden Hazard was only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench after leading Belgium to third place in Russia, but his quality was there for all to see during his brief 15-minute cameo as he set up Pedro Rodriguez for the third goal.

Sarri, however, sought to temper expectations of his star forward, who returned to training only last week, saying: "Eden in this moment cannot play for 90 minutes. He has to improve, to have training.

"The best thing is for him to play 15-20 minutes when the opponents probably are tired."

While Sarri guarded against giving Hazard praise, Huddersfield manager David Wagner was rather more effusive.

"He is good isn't he?" joked the German. "But everybody fights with their weapons. Sometimes mentality can beat quality. Today, their quality was too big even if the mentality of my guys was there."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2018, with the headline 'Chelsea won't play like Napoli: Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe