Antonio Rudiger believes Maurizio Sarri is finally adapting to life in the Premier League and has now found a “golden middle” in his Chelsea tactics.
Sarri was seemingly on the brink of a Chelsea exit after his side suffered a lamentable 6-0 loss to Man City last month but since then, the Blues have adopted a more conservative approach and subsequently hit form.
How has Sarri adjusted his tactics? Five key things to know…
- A turbulent few months of poor performances and results found Sarri’s job firmly on the line.
- The Blues’ 6-0 defeat to Man City last month was their heaviest defeat in 28 years and was also the fourth consecutive away match without a goal.
- There were calls for ‘Sarri-ball’ to change but the Italian had so far proven stubborn.
- However, since the City defeat, Chelsea have changed tactics and ultimately changed fortunes with wins against Malmo, Spurs and Fulham.
- Their more conservative approach has conceded just one goal in four matches, including cleans sheets against Spurs and Man City in the League Cup final.
After the 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s men, Sarri has since tightened up at the back, with aberrations in defence proving more scarce as the club have conceded just once in four matches.
Rudiger has now conceded Sarri has finally tinkered with his tactics and is now acclimatising to the dynamism of the Premier League.
The German centre-back said: “I think everyone has adapted to new things — also the coach. You saw the way we played against Tottenham and Manchester City [in the past week]? It was different to the way we played in the first three months.
“Everyone needs to adapt. Have we found a good balance of how to play? Definitely. In life, you need to adapt to things. This league is different to Italy, you have to adjust a bit.”
When quizzed on whether the past few months have been a learning curve for Sarri, Rudiger added: “Of course. He learned from that game against City. There we went high, we went to press, we wanted to win the ball and everyone knows what happened.
“We can play both [styles]. But it is always good to find the golden middle. It depends on the coach. He gives the tactics and the players follow.”
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Chelsea’s top four hopes
Chelsea’s aspirations of clinching a top-four finish were looking bleak after they suffered successive away defeats to Arsenal, Bournemouth and Man City, but following a recent upturn, the club are back in hot pursuit.
Six points against Spurs and Fulham have taken Sarri and co. to within touching distance of a Champions League qualification spot, with the club clinging to the coattails of fourth-placed Man Utd by just two points.
Chelsea have a game in hand against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, as well as Arsenal who sit a point above in fifth, and Rudiger now believes the club have a real chance of leapfrogging their challengers.
“It is good to know we have things in our own hands,” said the German. “We started with the win against Tottenham and now we have beaten Fulham. We want to continue like this. It’s not important to speak about other clubs. We need to look at own house and get our own things solved.”
Sarri and his side will play host to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday, but will first have to contest in the first leg of their Europa League round-of-16 clash against Dynamo Kyiv on Thursday at Stamford Bridge.