Everything is not peachy at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri looking to be on his last legs.
After a strong start to the season, the Blues have fallen to the wayside, currently sitting sixth in the Premier League and out of the FA Cup.
Chelsea, and Sarri, have drawn a lot of criticism for their playing style with Sarrismo still causing problems at Stamford Bridge – finally appearing to anger the Blues’ home support.
As a result, Chelsea are reportedly on the lookout to replace Sarri soon, with Zinedine Zidane among those being tipped for the role.
The Frenchman enjoyed considerable success in three years at Real Madrid, winning three consecutive Champions League trophies.
Granted, Zidane had some of the world’s best players at his disposal, but that cannot be counted against the Frenchman and his managerial nous.
As such, the Frenchman is highly sought after, and Chelsea would do well to secure him before more potential interest in the summer.
Should he take over, we have predicted how Zidane’s tactics would impact on the Blues’ starting XI and forecast the winners and losers among the Chelsea squad should Zizou take over at Stamford Bridge.
How Chelsea would line up under Zidane
One of the biggest criticisms of Sarri this season has been his stubbornness in sticking with his style of play, no matter what happens.
At the start of the season, Sarrismo worked well, but now it is faltering. However, Sarri’s insistence to keep trying with no Plan B is causing Chelsea serious problems.
In Zidane, Chelsea would be bringing in a manager yet to have his own true playing style, rather working to get the best out of individuals.
This is something Chelsea could do with at the moment, with a handful of good players at their disposal who are not playing to their full potential.
Should Zidane come in, there is not much the Frenchman can do in terms of formations, given Chelsea’s lack of strength in depth – only having two first-team strikers among the many limitations.
This would see Zidane likely stick with a 4-3-3 formation utilised by Sarri, albeit it with some minor changes.
Goalkeeper: Kepa Arrizabalaga
For Chelsea, the goalkeeper picks himself with the club having spent £72m on Arrizabalaga last summer. Despite having some hairy moments this season, the future is bright for the Spaniard.
Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta
Should Zidane take over this season, the Frenchman wouldn’t have many options at right-back. Azpilicueta is the starter and still puts in his fair share of solid performances despite looking under par on occasion.
Centre-back: Antonio Rudiger
The emergence of Rudiger as a solid centre-back has been one of the few positives for Chelsea this season, with the German easily the Blues’ best defender.
Centre-back: David Luiz
As always, Luiz blows hot and cold but his attack-minded brain may give him the slight edge on Andreas Christensen as it has for Sarri this season.
Left-back: Marcos Alonso
One of Chelsea’s Marmite players, fans have been asking for Alonso to be dropped for weeks for his defensive frailty. But Zidane’s use of Marcelo at Real Madrid could ease Alonso’s worries of being replaced by Emerson.
Defensive midfield: N’Golo Kante
The first big change to the formation, Kante is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and should be played accordingly. Zidane used Casemiro just in front of the back line while at Real Madrid, something Kante can do to allow his team-mates to do the pushing further forward.
Central midfield: Jorginho
Kante’s switch to defensive midfield leaves Jorginho’s position in the team up for debate, but the Italian could do well slightly further away from his own goal.
Despite the criticism over his lack of assists, the Italian can put his passing ability to more use slightly further up the pitch, linking with Chelsea’s forward line.
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Central midfield: Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Chelsea’s best attacking central midfielder, Loftus-Cheek has been unfortunate with injuries this season. But, when fit, the Englishman should be one of the first names in Chelsea’s lineup, joining up with the Blues’ attack with his driving runs.
Right wing: Willian
Some Chelsea fans may hope for the consistent introduction of Callum Hudson-Odoi with a new manager, but Zidane did not have a good record with youth at Real Madrid. As a result, it is likely Willian would retain his place at least until the end of the season before Christian Pulisic comes in.
Striker: Gonzalo Higuain
Higuain left Real Madrid before he could get a chance to play under Zidane, but the Argentinian could thrive in a free-flowing attack. Higuain has had a promising start but the service is not quite there yet, something Zidane’s arrival would bring.
Left wing: Eden Hazard
Chelsea’s best player, Hazard can be Zidane’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the focal point of the attack with a free role. This gives the Belgian the chance to drift into central areas when the game allows, while still hurting opposition defences from wide.
Sarri’s system is bred on the technical ability of his players, which in itself is not a bad thing. But, should Zidane come in to replace him, some of Sarri’s favoured men may see themselves pushed down, while others re-emerge.
Here are two of the likeliest winners and losers if Zidane would take over.
Eden Hazard has just under 18 months remaining on his Chelsea contract and has been flirted with a move to Real Madrid for a few years now.
One of the reasons Hazard has previously mentioned over his dream move to Real was the presence of his football idol Zidane.
But should Zidane take over at Chelsea, Hazard would be able to live his dream in London, potentially confirming his long-term future in London too.
Hazard would also find himself with even more attacking freedom under Zidane, taking a Cristiano Ronaldo-like status among the Chelsea team.
Is Maurizio Sarri stopping Claude Makélélé’s N’Golo Kanté prophecy from being fulfilled? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/rQTefErSQp
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 18, 2019
Kante has been good in a slightly more advanced position this season, improving his attacking play. But the Frenchman does still look out of place and would do a lot better in his favoured defensive role.
Zidane’s arrival would undoubtedly see that happen, allowing Kante to express the full extent of his abilities.
Only two players won more tackles than Kante in the Premier League last season when he was a defensive midfielder under Conte. By stark contrast, Kante is only ranked 50th for the Premier League’s top tacklers this season.
Mateo Kovacic has had a relatively good season for Chelsea since joining on loan from Real Madrid, being Sarri’s preferred choice as left central midfielder.
But that could all come to an end if Sarri is sacked and Zidane comes in. Kovacic only started 48 of his 89 appearances in three years under Zidane, unable to force his way into the starting XI.
And, upon joining Chelsea last summer, Kovacic admitted he suffered from a loss of confidence under Zidane.
“I needed it,” he said in September after becoming a regular starter under Sarri.
“I needed it a lot because I didn’t get this type of confidence in the last years.
“Now I’m really enjoying it but I need to pay back on the pitch.”
Jorginho is not a bad footballer, but is very much Sarri’s man, following his compatriot from Napoli last summer.
Should Sarri leave Chelsea, it could also spell the end of Jorginho’s brief Blues career, unless the midfielder proves to a new manager – Zidane in this case – that he can perform in a different system.
Zidane’s arrival would see Jorginho forced out of his deep role and into a more open midfield position, where he will be put under pressure to get creative rather than being a metronome passer.