Maurizio Sarri has revealed he agreed to a tactical change his players asked for at half-time during Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.
In a crucial win that has somewhat eased the pressure on the beleaguered Blues boss, Chelsea delivered a masterful defensive performance that suggests Sarri still retains command of his players, who showed they have not refrained from abandoning the 60-year-old’s preferred footballing philosophy.
The defensive phase of Sarri-ball includes high-intensity pressing upfront and in the opening stanza, the west Londoners duly performed the task to a T, with Sarri noting they recovered possession 10 times in the opponent half. But in a stunning turn of events, a coach known for his tactical stubbornness somewhat gave way to his players’ demands.
In an interview after the Spurs match, Sarri has since revealed that his charges asked if they could start their pressing patterns in lower parts of the pitch owing to fatigue from playing more than two hours of football in the League Cup final against Manchester City. The 60-year-old heeded his players’ suggestions, adding that they generally have improved on the defensive phase more than ever before.
“At the beginning of the match, we pressed really very high. We recovered 10 balls in the opposing half,” said the Blues boss. “Then it was really very difficult for us because we played 120 minutes three days ago, so the players asked me to press a little bit lower.
“Of course I agreed because they defended really very well. But we defended very well in the final as well against City. In the match against Malmo, in the last three matches we’ve defended very well with a level of application and attention higher than before. But I think that the level of aggression we have was good.
“It’s not enough to say ‘stop Kane’. Kane is a great player, but it’s not enough to say to the defenders: ‘Stop Kane.’ You have to stop the opponents before Kane.”