Chelsea have moved fast to replace Antonio Conte, after the FA Cup winners announced the appointment of former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri as their new manager. The controversial Italian led his former club to a second-place finish in Serie A, after running Juventus close in a hard-fought season.
Just what can Chelsea fans expect from their new, chain-smoking, maverick boss?
Word has it that Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola is set to join Sarri as assistant manager. This might be a masterstroke in connecting the fans, players and other staff already at the club to a man who is not averse to a bad quip from time to time.
It remains to be seen whether he will bring the rest of his coaching staff from Napoli to London with him, although it is rumoured that a number of them are likely to remain in Italy.
Chelsea have also secured the signature of Italian midfielder Jorginho, who joins Sarri from Napoli. Jorginho was strongly linked with a move to Manchester City this summer and this is therefore quite a coup for Sarri early on in his tenure. The presence of the 60-year old boss might also help with the Blues’ pursuit of Kalidou Koulibaly, another Napoli player that Chelsea have coveted for a while.
Dries Mertens has also been linked with a move to Chelsea this summer, and such a move might be necessitated if the club decides to move ahead with a purported sale of winger Willian. A Gonzalo Higuaín-Alvaro Morata swap has also been mooted; Higuaín worked with Sarri at Napoli before departing for Juventus last summer.
It will also be interesting to see what influence Sarri’s arrival will have on the future of crucial stars Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, who have both been linked with a move to Real Madrid.
Sarri was lauded for bringing an exciting, attacking brand of football to Naples and Chelsea fans will be hoping he can recreate that at Stamford Bridge. At Napoli, he would normally set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Jorginho orchestrating play from deep in midfield. Dries Mertens spent much of last season playing as the main forward, with Lorenzo Insigne and José Callejón flanking him.
If Sarri utilises the same tactics at Chelsea, Jorginho would likely reprise his deep-lying, playmaker role which might even bring the best out of the energetic N’Golo Kanté by allowing him to play in a box-to-box role similar to that performed by Allan at Napoli.
A 4-3-3 set-up would almost definitely have Hazard on the wide left drifting inside, with Pedro, Willian or a new signing playing on the right hand side of either Giroud, Batshuayi, Morata or Higuaín – were he to arrive.
The biggest question surrounding Sarri will be his lack of trophies. It is on his ability to deliver those, after all, that he will be judged on at Chelsea. Time will tell whether he can change that record during his time in England.