Fast Learners: Sarri’s Chelsea Are Already Emulating Sarri’s Napoli

By: Kevin Chroust | August 28, 2018

Using STATS Edge, we can objectively show how Maurizio Sarri has transformed Chelsea into an up-tempo team with minimal roster turnover.

 

It’s supposed to take time. It’s supposed to require more of an overhaul of talent. Instead, Maurizio Sarri has Chelsea playing some of the speediest football in Europe, and it should already remind us of the style he built at Napoli.

About them: Napoli played fast tempo football last season 250 percent more than the average Serie A side, while their opponents were at -53 percent of the normal level:

It was the most frenetic pace in Europe’s top-five leagues, but placing a percent value on it isn’t where we’re going to find true insight. Within STATS Edge, we can select the fast tempo style – or any style – within the radar to accelerate the analysis process. Through AI, it helps us find clips such as the following that make you wonder how Napoli didn’t end Juventus’ Serie A dynasty:

  1. If we go back to September, we see they played +356 percent of the league average for fast tempo in four matches, which may have been highlighted by their second of a four-goal second half to defeat Lazio 4-1 on Sept. 20:

 

  1. They were at it again on Feb. 18 against SPAL:

 

  1. But eight days before that, they beat Lazio 4-1 again – again after going down 1-0. This time, the fast tempo play was layered with regains and exceptional counters:

Chelsea in their final season under Antonio Conte looked almost nothing like this to the point that players such as Willian expressed their displeasure with the managerial style after Conte’s departure:

This season, the Blues – not Manchester City or Liverpool – have been the most up-tempo side in the Premier League:

Chelsea’s goals so far might not yet show highlights quite at the level of the ones we saw above, but Pedro’s goal in the opener against Arsenal might have been a preview of what’s to come:

The chances have certainly been there, and we can see how those chances are coming from fast tempo play with minimal time spent sifting through the video. If we use the match timeline to filter play for fast tempo possessions in that same match, it’s even easier to see Sarri’s influence on his new club in a second half in which his team’s pace went circles around one of the Premier League’s other new manager’s sides:

So what does Chelsea’s style look like compared to other clubs off to strong starts? It makes sense to begin with Liverpool, who are also on nine points through three matches and play faster than other nine-point clubs Tottenham and Watford:

We can’t ignore the defending champions, despite dropping points to Wolves at the weekend:

And finally, how does it compare to Napoli? It’s only been two matches, but their old manager left a little something behind:

We’re only three matches into the English season, but after 270 minutes of football, Sarri’s latest team may be flipping the script on who it is Premier League sides should be keeping up with.