LONDON – Maurizio Sarri admits there may be trouble ahead for Chelsea in the early stages of the season as they try to learn the specifics of his style after a disrupted summer.
Sarri shared fears that it could be two months before his team are at full power, and has told the board at Stamford Bridge he wants big changes to next year’s pre-season schedule.
He pointed to a lack of goals, and wants to see his team move the ball more quickly.
The Italian also warned Chelsea fans not to expect £72 million goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who is in the squad and expected to start at Huddersfield today (4pm SA time), to perform at the same level as Thibaut Courtois.
“I hope the second part of the season will be very good with a lot of points,” said Sarri. “I expect in the first part of the season some problems. For sure, in this moment, we are not at the top of our potential.
“We did a pre-season… what can I say? Unusual, maybe. So, now we are not at the top.”
Goals were a problem for Chelsea last season, and have not flowed freely in pre-season, with only three in five games, excluding penalty shootouts.
“We have to play at another speed,” said Sarri. “At present, the players think too much about what to do. So, the ball doesn’t move at the right speed.
“If we are able to play (faster), maybe scoring will not be a problem for us, but at this current speed, it may be a problem.”
Sarri’s arrival from Napoli was disrupted by a delay in sacking his predecessor Antonio Conte, a friendly in Australia and the World Cup, so time with key players has been limited.
He said he would change it completely for next year.
“I arrived in the middle of July, so the problem was there and I have to accept it, but for the future, it will be better to change it. They (the board) know it,” sais Sarri.
At Napoli, Sarri would spend three weeks locked away with his team in a mountain retreat before playing friendlies in Europe.
They refused to play in the global International Champions Cup, in which Chelsea have competed in recent years.
“My perfect programme of pre-season is not completely in line with the programme of the club,” said Sarri. “So, we have to arrive at a compromise.”
On Arrizabalaga, 23, signed from Athletic Bilbao, he said: “The Courtois situation was clear. He wanted to go to Madrid. So, we lost one of the most important goalkeepers in the world.
“But we bought one of the most important young goalkeepers in Europe, so I am really happy. I hope he can improve very fast but, for the moment, he is not Courtois.”
With midfielder Mateo Kovacic signed on loan for a year from Real Madrid before Thursday’s deadline, Sarri considered his squad to be complete.
There will be outgoings from the fringes of the squad, but Chelsea will not sell any of their first-team players and the manager, having spoken to Eden Hazard, hopes the Belgian forward will extend a contract, which is set to expire in 2020.
Sarri said: “My job is on the pitch, to improve players, to win matches. It is not to sign new contracts, but I have seen a player who is happy to stay, so I think it will be no problem – the new contract.”