The winners and losers of Chelseas change in system under Maurizio Sarri

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Gary Cahill is yet to feature under Maurizio Sarri (Picture: Getty)

For arguably the first time in his Chelsea reign, Roman Abramovich has hired a coach renowned for style rather than substance with Maurizio Sarri having gained plaudits for the manner in which Napoli played without earning the trophies to go with it.

Sarri hasnt had much time to implement his ideas at Stamford Bridge but it has been clear in their early fixtures that Chelsea are transitioning away from a pragmatic, counter-attacking system under Antonio Conte to a more controlled, free-flowing philosophy under their new manager.

To help facilitate this change, Sarri has ditched the back-three system that characterised Contes spell and has instead implemented a 4-3-3 system with a flat back-four in defence.

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Ahead of Chelseas game against Newcastle, he was asked whether he would be tempted to revert to Contes system following defensive teething problems against Arsenal, but responded by saying: No. I used five [defenders] years ago but its not my way.

As ever when a new manager comes in, certain players who would have been favourites of the old guard find themselves out-of-favour while others flourish under a new regime.

Here are the winners and losers of Sarris tactical tinkering…

David Luiz

The Brazilian barely featured in Contes second season at Stamford Bridge (Picture: Getty)

All was evidently not well with David Luiz and Conte last season with the Brazilian restricted to only ten Premier League appearances throughout the campaign.

He has been reinstated in the early days of Sarris reign, though, starting all three games thus far and his composure on the ball and ability to instigate attacks from defence are precisely why he is being picked.

Verdict: Winner

Antonio Rudiger

Alongside Luiz has been Germany international Antonio Rudiger, who was arguably the only successful signing that Chelsea made in Contes second season.

Like Luiz, Rudiger distributes the ball efficiently and effectively from defence, as highlighted by his 90.5% pass accuracy rate in Sarris first two league games in charge.

Rudigers pace and ability to step out of defence with the ball should also stand him in good stead with Chelsea looking to play on the front foot more often than not.

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Verdict: Winner

Marcos Alonso

Alonso has made a great start under Sarri but is he suited to his system long-term? (Picture: Getty)

Few players have had as big an impact in the early days of Sarris reign as Alonso, who has a match-winning goal, an assist and a penalty award to his name already.

Alonso is an extremely useful player to have owing to his propensity to score and create goals, provide an aerial presence in both boxes and a threat from set-piece situations.

Yet he is far more suited to playing as a wing-back than as a full-back and his defensive deficiencies were exposed against Arsenal. Alonso also isnt the quickest or most mobile either which are usually pre-requisites for Sarris full-backs.

Verdict: Loser

Cesar Azpilicueta

No matter who is in charge at Chelsea and what formation they use, Cesar Azpilicueta is a constant presence of a club that is otherwise in a perennial state of flux.

During the last three seasons under Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Conte and now Sarri, Azpilicueta has missed just two of a possible 116 Premier League fixtures.

Although he isnt the most natural attacking full-back around, Azpilicuetas dependability and defensive nous means that Sarri, like his predecessors, will lean on him heavily.

Verdict: Winner

Gary Cahill

Sarri dismissed suggestions that Gary Cahills first-team career at Chelsea has come to an end by insisting that he needs time to adapt to his new instructions.

However, it is difficult to see a way back for Cahill unless an injury crisis strikes. When Chelsea won the league in 2016-17, Cahill was regularly identified as the weak link in the back three alongside Luiz and Azpilicueta.


Cahills occasional lapses and diminishing pace werent so much of an issue in Contes back three, but in a two-man central defensive partnership, he could struggle.

Verdict: Loser

Andreas Christensen

The Dane has all the attributes to be a success under Conte (Picture: Getty)

Out of all of Chelseas central defenders, you might have thought that Andreas Christensen was the one best-suited to playing in a Sarri system.

Quick enough to play in a high defensive line and possessing the best passing range and accuracy of all Chelseas defenders, the young Dane looks a safe bet to marshal Chelseas defence for years.

His lack of involvement thus far has been slightly surprising, but if one of Luiz or Rudigers form drops, he is next in line in the pecking order.

Verdict: Winner

Victor Moses

Victor Moses announced his decision to retire from international duty with Nigeria at the age of 27 in order to focus on his club career yet he has been afforded just nine minutes of football so far this season.

Like Alonso, Moses is far better suited to playing as a wing-back than as a full-back but unlike the Spaniard, he has virtually no experience of the role having played as a winger for the majority of his career.

After being cast aside from one manager to the next, Moses finally made his breakthrough under Conte but given Sarris comments regarding Chelseas system, it looks as though he could be the most at risk squad member of becoming obsolete.


Verdict: Loser

Emerson Palmieri

If Alonso is shifted on to one of the Madrid clubs before the end of the transfer window or fails to fully adapt to Sarris instructions, January recruit Emerson Palmieri is in line to assume the left-back spot.

In theory, Emerson should be better suited to playing under Sarri as he is far more dynamic and hugs the touchline rather than meandering infield as Alonso tends to do.

However, it is difficult to gauge how good Emerson actually is at this point. Barring one season at Roma, the 24-year-old has never managed to hang onto a permanent first-team slot wherever hes been.

Verdict: Jurys out

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