Sunday 20 October 2019

Sarri gets up to speed on intensity of English game

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. Photo: PA
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. Photo: PA

David Hytner

Maurizio Sarri says the greatest culture shock he has felt during his transition from Italian to English football has been in the remorselessness of sprinting in matches.

The Chelsea manager is looking forward to today's visit to Crystal Palace but at the halfway point of his first season outside of his native Italy, he took a moment to reflect. Sarri's regrets centre on the Premier League defeats at Wolves and at home to Leicester while the high point was surely the victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. But what has startled him has been the pace and intensity of the games.

"In Italy, we run more in terms of quantity," the former Napoli manager said. "But the difference is the quality. Here, there are more accelerations and the number of them is really very important. There are 1.1 accelerations every minute - over 23, 24 kilometres per hour - and it's difficult because for these accelerations, you need a very big engine.

"It is more difficult than in Italy. The quantity of running is higher in Italy or at least the quantity of running of Napoli was more than at Chelsea but the quality is different."

Sarri was officially appointed as the successor to Antonio Conte at Chelsea on July 14, meaning he had only three weeks with the squad before they took on Manchester City in the Community Shield. It is tempting to suggest Sarri's feet have barely touched the ground in England.

"We had a very unusual pre-season, which was really difficult - I have no experience of this kind of pre-season," Sarri said. "We had three weeks for working and then we started to play every three days so it is not easy to work here to improve the single [individual] players and the team. It is quite difficult.

"We've made mistakes in two matches - Wolves and Leicester, although only in the second half against Leicester. We played very well in the first half. One of the most important performances of our season was in the first half.

"We were not able to react to the difficulty [after Jamie Vardy scored for Leicester in the 51st minute] and so we could have gained three or four more points. I don't want to talk about the match at Tottenham [which they lost 3-1]."

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