LONDON — Maurizio Sarri has warned that Chelsea will never find out if he is capable of emulating Pep Guardiola and building the best team in the world at Stamford Bridge if he is not given time to implement his philosophy.
Defeats against Tottenham and Wolves in Chelsea’s last three Premier League matches have raised the first serious questions about Sarri’s 4-3-3 system and expansive style of play, and imperious champions Manchester City could deal a further blow to the Italian’s revolution at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Ever since his appointment in July, Sarri has said that transforming Chelsea’s style of play will take time — a commodity rarely afforded to coaches at Stamford Bridge when results and performances fall short of expectations.
Sarri, however, likened his current situation to that of Guardiola in his first season at City, when players struggled to adapt to the Barcelona legend’s ideas and the club finished third in the Premier League.
“I don’t know [if I will get time],” Sarri said. “You’ll have to ask the club. I don’t know what to answer. I don’t know. But you have to hope that … what happens if Guardiola had no time in City? Maybe the best team in the world wasn’t City in the last year.
“I don’t know. It’s not my problem. My problem is to improve my players, to solve the situation, to solve problems, to try to gain a lot of points. Then there is the club that will decide what is better for them.”
Guardiola responded to his first failed season in England by bringing five new players — Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva, Ederson and Danilo — to City for a combined outlay of more than £200 million, before adding Aymeric Laporte at a cost of £58.5m the following January.
Sarri has always insisted that he will find his solutions on the training pitch rather than in the transfer market, and he claimed that one new addition next summer could be enough for Chelsea to realise their full potential.
“We need to work, we need to improve, we need to understand very well the style of playing,” he added. “We need to change the mentality, not because the old mentality was bad. But it’s not suitable with the new way of playing.
“Then, after all this, maybe you do need one player. But the market is really very important when you understand that you need only one player in one position for changing the team. But you cannot think that you can buy 11 new players without problems. If you do, the problems will be the same.
“You have to create a new mentality and a new style of playing. We need to improve. We need to arrive at 95 percent of our potential. And then we can get the last five percent with a new player. With a new player, not 11 new players.”
Sarri and Guardiola met with legendary former AC Milan boss Arrigo Sacchi in June, the three men recognising in each other common values in their tactical approach to football and developing players.
Asked if Guardiola had given him any advice about coaching in England, Sarri replied: “He told me the first season in England is really very difficult. For him, it’s impossible to improve in the first season 20 players.
“He told me, in the first season, you have to work only on 14 players otherwise you are in trouble. You need too much time to improve all the squad. In England, it’s really very difficult.”