LONDON – Maurizio Sarri is only three weeks into the job as Chelsea manager, but his first trip to Wembley should provide him with a good indicator of what is expected at the club.
Antonio Conte won the FA Cup there in May, and found it was not enough to keep his job having trailed in 30 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League and upset the players.
Sarri has already set about charming his new squad, and is confident Willian will stay after talks with the Brazilian on Thursday.
With only five days until the transfer market closes for Premier League clubs, the Chelsea manager hopes to convince Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard to do the same.
Courtois and Hazard are due back at the club today, as are other players who reached the World Cup semi-finals.
Sarri will speak to them before the FA Community Shield on Sunday about the task of closing the gap on champions City and his good friend Pep Guardiola.
The two coaches share the same footballing philosophy and met for dinner with former Italy manager Arrigo Sacchi in June, when Guardiola warned him of the perils of English football.
“Pep is a friend, so I respect him as a person,” said Sarri. “As a coach, I respect him for the work he has done. He is the best coach in the world now. He can personalise a team and give it an identity.
“We met, we had dinner and it was fun. He told me in England it is very difficult and the level is high. He had some problems in the first season but he said come to England. The Premier League is the best league in the world.”
With a knowing smile, he spoke of being Chelsea manager for “10 years”.
Life expectancy for managers at Stamford Bridge was much less. He will have to trade in trophies and he might as well start with the Shield.
“We can try to reduce the gap,” said Sarri. “It is difficult because Manchester City have been working together for two years. We started two-and-a-half weeks ago.
“But we will work for this target. I look forward to playing in Wembley. It is my first time and I want to win. It is important to have a trophy immediately.”
Willian, having reported five days late for pre-season training – citing a problem with his passport – has escaped a fine and left Sarri with the impression he will be here for the season, despite interest from Real Madrid.
“I spoke with him about his late arrival,” said Sarri. “Not about his future. It was a very positive conversation. I am happy about it. There is not a Willian problem. I think he will stay. I am very confident.”
Pedro has extended his Chelsea contract until 2020. Cesc Fabregas has a knee injury and is a doubt for Wembley.