Chelsea’s tactical headache deconstructed: The problems facing Sarri-ball

Chelsea's tactical headache deconstructed: The problems facing Sarri-ball

Teams tend to defend against this shape by sitting at halfway or slightly deeper, crowding out the 10 and forcing passes out wide… sound familiar? Vertical passes often result in turnovers of possession, which means the attacking team doesn’t have total control of the ball, which means a manager has less control over the outcome of a match. Sarri wants to limit variables since that’s how his teams gain an advantage, never relying on the luck of a dice roll. 

The system is fine, the players are at fault

“This defeat was due to our mentality, more than anything else,” said a furious Sarri in his post-match interview. “This is something I can’t accept. This group of players are extremely difficult to motivate.”

Arsenal were quicker to close down Chelsea, and from kick-off showed more energy and aggression all over the pitch. Without maximum effort or at least a matched desire to win, tactical setups can have little effect on the outcome of a match between two groups of hugely talented players.

When teams play with a high defensive line as Sarri’s does, the first line of press is crucial but too often Arsenal were able to escape the attentions of Pedro, Willian and Hazard. Arsenal stayed narrow in their own half and had a striker stay wide to offer an out-ball – Sarri shouldn’t have had to explain to his players how important it was to cut this pass out:

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