Michael Ballack believes Maurizio Sarri has finally found the key to unlocking Chelsea’s attacking qualities this season.

The arrival of Sarri at west London in the summer has completely transformed the Blues. With the ex-Napoli manager at the helm, the Blues have embarked on a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions, seeing them sit second in the Premier League standings while also looking on course to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League.

Apart from this spectacular string of results, Sarri has also introduced a more enterprising brand of football at Stamford Bridge. The conservative, reactive approach of recent seasons has paved way for a high-energy, attacking approach that has seen the Blues lead the league in passes made, while also coming second in the shots taken and goals scored.

Affectionately called Sarri-ball, this free-flowing, easy-on-the-eye football has seen many purring, not least of which is a former Blues stalwart in Ballack and the ex-Germany favourite, who starred at west London for four years in the late 2000s, reckons that Sarri has finally tapped into the attacking capabilities of the Blues.

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“Of course, the team was still good after last season,” said the ex-German international midfielder. “There’s not huge changes in the squad from before but sometimes they were a bit pragmatic and you could see as an opponent team what to expect when Chelsea was coming.

“It is a bit more flexible now, I would say, with a little bit more freedom to go forward. A little bit more freedom in certain positions in the pitch.

“They still have that Italian base, a defence-orientated structure which is really important to win in the long term, and to be successful in the long term you need defensive organisation. They had that before but my opinion is that there’s a little bit more going on and movement towards the front.”