June 23, 2021, 12:29

How Maurizio Sarri has improved Chelsea’s results and changed their style

How Maurizio Sarri has improved Chelsea’s results and changed their style

Chelsea are exceeding expectations this season with a scintillating start under new boss Maurizio Sarri – but what has the Italian changed and how has his style improved Eden Hazard?

The Blues are level on points with Manchester City and Liverpool atop the Premier League, having amassed seven points more than at the same stage last season under Antonio Conte.

Eden Hazard’s seven goals and three assists from just 577 minutes has played a huge part in Sarri’s instant impact at Stamford Bridge – but what has the Italian changed to alter Chelsea’s style, improve results, and boost Hazard?

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Upon appointment, Sarri ditched Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 system and deployed his favoured 4-3-3, encouraging N’Golo Kante to advance further up the pitch and making summer-signing Jorginho the distribution hub in central midfield.

Despite having a star-studded squad at his disposal, Sarri has selected firm favourites from the get-go, with seven players starting every league game – making only seven line-up changes to date.

The Italian has recently started Olivier Giroud up top instead of Alvaro Morata, as well as switching Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic in midfield, while Willian and Pedro have started four and six games, respectively.

The formation change and team consistency appear to have boosted efficiency in attack.

As the graphic below shows, Chelsea have created more big chances, attempted more shots, scored more goals and won more points than they did in the corresponding fixtures under Conte last term.

Those attacking stats have been achieved from improved ball retention – completing 159 more passes per game, in addition to raising possession from 55 per cent in 2017/18 to 67 per cent under Sarri.

Much of that additional possession has been in attacking areas. The graphic below reveals a primary band of activity inside the opposition’s half, which was largely absent under Conte.

It may come as no surprise that Hazard has been influential in these increases to Chelsea’s attacking stats, with the Belgian recording considerable spikes in touches per game around the opposition’s penalty area and down the left flank.

As a result, Hazard tops the Premier League scoring charts with seven goals from just six starts and has dwarfed his per-90 stats from last season across a raft of additional stats, including conversion rate, passes and shots.

His breathtaking form on the left of a front three has seen the Belgian declared the best player in the Premier League by a host of pundits this season.

Hazard will be a key man on again on Saturday, when Sarri’s Chelsea welcome former Blues boss Jose Mourinho and Manchester United to Stamford Bridge. Will they maintain their impressive start?

Will Sarri outsmart former Blues boss Mourinho? Watch Cherlsea v Manchester United live on Sky Sports Premier League from 11.30am on Saturday

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