The Maurizio Sarri era at Chelsea began with a comfortable 1-0 win over Perth Glory on the west coast of Australia on Monday – but what did we learn from the Italian’s first game in charge?
Pedro found the net just five minutes in to the friendly contest but, despite Chelsea’s dominance for the remainder of the match, they were unable to find a second against the A-League side.
Here are five ways that Sarri is having an immediate impact at Chelsea.
The return of 4-3-3
When Antonio Conte switched from a 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 early in his first campaign, it was heralded as the tactical change which put the Blues on course for the Premier League title. It was Conte’s favoured formation and he set about drilling his team to play his style of football.
The system didn’t click as effectively in season two – although an FA Cup win ensured there was more silverware – and new boss Sarri has wasted no time in refreshing Chelsea’s set-up in his first match in charge, fielding a 4-3-3 in Perth.
With full-backs Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta in slightly deeper roles than their more familiar wing-back positions, the onus was on Chelsea’s wide forwards to work the flanks and youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi caught the eye on the left, while Pedro enjoyed success drifting in off the right to support Alvaro Morata in the box.
Chelsea set out to play with a high tempo, with Ross Barkley and Cesc Fabregas conducting the play ahead of new signing Jorginho in the midfield trio during the first-half. While substitutions affected the flow in the second period, this felt like a distinctly different approach to performances last season under the more cautious Conte.
Hudson-Odoi takes his chance
After winning the U17 World Cup with England last summer, Hudson-Odoi was handed his Chelsea first-team debut by Conte in a January 2018 FA Cup tie with Newcastle and went on to make two Premier League appearances. On Monday, the 17-year-old made a case for much more senior football in the coming campaign.
Stationed on the left of the Blues’ front three in the first-half, Hudson-Odoi proved to be a real handful for Perth’s right-back Scott Neville, confidently running at his marker at every opportunity. He had almost instant success when he beat Neville and crossed for Pedro to volley in Chelsea’s opener.
The youngster had weaved his way into space again a few minutes later, but sent his cross deep when his team-mates had come to the near post, while he just over-hit a through ball for Pedro after leading a rapid counter-attack. A selection of tricks, flicks and dummies through the opening 45 underlined his confidence.
Off the ball, Hudson-Odoi looked to come in off the side-line and run in behind the Perth defence – on one occasion David Luiz almost sent him through on goal – while his pace will be a vital attribute down that flank. Sarri, who substituted him at the break, will have been encouraged.
David Luiz is back
Between a knee injury and falling out of favour, David Luiz played just 839 minutes of Premier League football last season. The indication from this opener in Australia was he is fit and ready to play a more important role this time around.
The Brazilian, who missed the World Cup, marshalled the Blues’ largely untroubled backline alongside 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu and showed off some of the positive passing which previously persuaded Jose Mourinho to play him in central midfield.
There was one reckless moment, when a rash and off-target challenge on Fabio Ferreira earned Luiz a yellow card, but the signs are the centre-back is back in contention for 2018/19.
Jorginho slots in on debut
Jorginho was an integral part of Sarri’s Napoli and the £50m signing slotted straight into a holding role in Chelsea’s midfield on Monday.
Dictator rather than destroyer, the Italian, who has been likened to Andrea Pirlo and made more passes than any other player in Europe’s top leagues last season, shuttled the ball from Chelsea’s defence to their more creative attackers.
Jorginho rarely strayed ahead of midfield partners Fabregas and Barkley in Perth, but was the central figure until his half-time substitution, instigating the Sarri style on the pitch.
Barkley makes his mark
Ross Barkley was considered one of the bargains of the January transfer window when Chelsea signed him for £15m from Everton. But come May, after form and fitness had limited him to just two Premier League appearances for his new club, Barkley’s future at Chelsea was far from certain.
A new manager has given him a fresh start, though, and the 24-year-old looked desperate to seize his chance in Australia. After an encouraging first-half, Barkley became the Blues’ main man after the break when he was pushed into a more advanced position.
From one of his many surging forward runs he scuffed a shot against the post before twice seeing efforts blocked in the box. Throughout the match Barkley’s passing looked sharp as he fed the ball through the Perth defence, handing Pedro, Morata and substitute Mario Pasalic the chance to try their luck.
He really should have capped the performance with a goal, poking wide after a smart turn in the area, but Barkley did more than enough to show Sarri he deserves opportunities this season