Sarri: Pep warned me about first year
Italian told by Guardiola to expect tough start Chelsea manager rules out spending spree
Maurizio Sarri has revealed that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola warned him he would not be able to improve all of his Chelsea players during his first year in charge. But the head coach has ruled out following Guardiola’s example and spending £200 million to improve his squad at the end of his first season.
Guardiola won his opening 10 games at City, but the club eventually finished third in the Premier League table and without a trophy.
Sarri started life at Chelsea with an 18-game unbeaten run after losing the Community Shield, but the Blues look on course for a battle to finish in the top four after losing two of their past three Premier League games ahead of City’s visit to Stamford Bridge today.
It was in June, before he was appointed by Chelsea the following month, that Sarri met with Guardiola and former Italy and AC Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi.
Asked what Guardiola had told him, Sarri said: “He told me the first season in England is really very difficult. For him, it’s impossible to improve, in the first season, 20 players.
“He told me, in the first season, you have to work only on 14 players otherwise you are in trouble.”
The question is whether Sarri will survive the type of difficult start Guardiola experienced at City. “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the club,” he said. “If Guardiola had no time at City? Maybe the best team in the world isn’t City in the past year.”
Guardiola reacted to his tough first season by adding Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Ederson, Bernardo Silva and Danilo to his squad in 2017, and City won the league with 100 points. But Sarri rejected the theory that Chelsea will have to match City’s spending to make ground on the champions. “We need to change the mentality, not because the old mentality was bad,” he said. “But it’s not suitable with the new way of playing.
“You have to create a new style of playing. We need to arrive at 95 per cent of our potential and then we can get the last five per cent with a new player. With a new player, not 11 new players.”
One area Chelsea will look at strengthening is in attack, with Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud and even Eden Hazard struggling to find consistency in front of goal.
“If you have a player who is able to score every match, it’s really important, but I think that’s impossible,” said Sarri. “It’s difficult for a striker to score in every match.”
When it was put to Sarri that Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Pierre Emerick-aubameyang are all prolific for their clubs, Sarri replied: “Not in every match. Every two is possible. In every match, it’s difficult for anyone. If you have a player like this, you are lucky.”
Improvement: Maurizio Sarri is working to change the mentality at Chelsea