Maurizio Sarri hasn’t had much time to shape his Chelsea side; but Saturday’s opening match of the season against Huddersfield provided some clues about his blueprint.
The expected 4-3-3 was on show and Ross Barkley got the nod in midfield; but the biggest surprise was in the alteration of N’Golo Kante’s role.
New signing Jorginho was fielded at the back of midfield, which allowed Kante more freedom to bomb forward. That was rewarded with a goal, Chelsea’s first of the league season.
There is logic in the switch. Against the so-called ‘lesser’ teams, Chelsea will dominate possession and Sarri’s will demand that leads to many goalscoring chances.
The more technical Jorginho at the base generates greater creativity from deep. Sarri will also demand Chelsea press intensely and Kante’s energy is well suited to that.
Jorginho and Kante may rotate being the deeper midfielder game-by-game; depending on the strengths of the opposition.
However, we must ask whether it’s really worth moving one of the world’s elite holding midfielders out of position.
Having Kante as a safety blanket in front of a new-look defence could prove invaluable.
Also, while Kante has undoubtedly improved in possession in the past 12 months, he still doesn’t have enough quality to operate in an attacking midfield role for a club of such grand ambitions.
A permanent switch of role has more downsides than positives and it would be Sarri’s first major error of judgement if he persists with it throughout the season.