After a wonderful start to the season the much-applauded Sarri-ball that was dismantling teams left,right and centre seems to be fading away as the mid-season point approaches.
Chelsea seem to have lost their way in the last month and it feels like Sarri’s style of play that was winning high praise from fans and pundits alike was exposed when Tottenham defeated the Blues 3-1 at the end of the last month.
Take a look back at this game if you are wondering why Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is so highly sough after from some of the world’s biggest clubs.
Chelsea’s ‘tempo setter’ and Sarri’s on-field general Jorginho was marked out of the game and the Blues looked lost when they realised the Italian wouldn’t be given the free licence to dictate the play like the way he had until this point.
One of Chelsea’s biggest problem appears to be their reaction to conceding, the side have struggled to react in the way that is expected of them when their backs are pushed against the wall.
Despite the fact that Chelsea seem to be tailing off heading into the busy Christmas and New Year period, Sarri has managed to instil a breath of fresh air and positivity during his time in charge of the Blues so far.
It no longer seems like there is a massive divide between the manager and the players (like there was with Conte last season)
At CaughtOffside we’ve put together our half-season review of everything that’s gone on at Stamford Bridge so far…
It’s hard not to give this accolade to Belgian superstar Eden Hazard, this is Hazard’s best Premier League season to date and so far he’s been in phenomenal form.
Hazard has been the subject of interest from Real Madrid and in the last 12 months rumours have intensified, the attacker managed to keep a cool head throughout this summer’s World Cup in Russia and the former Lille star was instrumental in guiding Belgium to a third placed finish.
It will be a tough ask for Chelsea to keep hold of their prized asset, especially given the fact that the 27-year-old described a move to Los Blancos as a ‘dream’, as per The Guardian.
It’s easy to see that Hazard has realised that now is the time for him to defend his throne as one of the Premier League’s best players.
With the rise of his countryman Kevin de Bruyne and ex Chelsea teammate Mohamed Salah in the last 12 month, Hazard has come into this season better prepared than he’s ever been before.
If the rumours are true and he’s on his way to Los Blancos in the summer I highly doubt that Hazard will want to lose out on the title of being named the Premier League’s best player to his rivals in what could be his last season in England.
Eden Hazard in the Premier League in 2018:
? Most take-ons completed (136)
? Most fouls won (98)
? Most chances created (96)
The ultimate menace. pic.twitter.com/SOrWmEjhCr
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 24, 2018
Surprisingly one of Chelsea’s best players under former manager Antonio Conte has gone from hero to zero in the space of less than 12 months.
Left-back Marcos Alonso seems to have been found out this season. The Spaniard’s gung-ho attacking mentality has left him misplaced when it comes to the defensive side to the game.
Alonso is far too slow to even give himself a fighting chance against the modern winger, they simply possess too much pace and trickery for the attack-minded Spanish international to cope with.
Unfortunately for the Blues Alonso could be with them for the foreseeable future. The 27-year-old put pen to paper on a new contract that will keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2023, according to BBC Sport.
Chelsea fans won’t be surprised to find out that we’ve labelled Alvaro Morata as the club’s most-infuriating-player. The forward has simply failed to go about his business consistently since joining the Blues from Real Madrid.
The Spaniard’s hit and miss form has seen superstar Eden Hazard lead the line for Chelsea in a false nine role.
Before Hazard was moved into a central role, Morata battled with Olivier Giroud for Chelsea’s No.9 position.
The fact that Sarri has switched Hazard into a central role arouses suspicion that Sarri doesn’t have any faith in the former Juventus talisman.
Morata’s long-term future doesn’t seem like it will be at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea could be set to beat their rivals to a major signing in January, this will certainly get their season back on track.
According to a report from The Sun, the Blues will put a big-money offer in for wantaway Real Madrid star Isco.
The report highlights that Chelsea are ready to blow Manchester City and Arsenal out of the water by offering Isco a whopping £250,000 a week in wages. Real Madrid may be more open to selling to Chelsea as they are currently the only club that are willing to make a move for Isco in January.
The Blues will put forward an offer of £70m to Madrid, the Spanish giants will find it hard to turn down such a lucrative proposition.
Just in case their rivals happen to catch up in the race to sign the playmaker it’s understood that the Stamford Bridge outfit will blow them out of the water by enticing the Spanish international with hefty signing-on fee.
One thing that could potentially turn Chelsea fans against the club is the idea that the West London club are willing to cash in on their talented young prospect Tammy Abraham in January, according to the Evening Standard.
The 21-year-old has been in magnificent form for loan club Aston Villa so far this season.
Manager job safety
Given Roman Abramovich’s tendencies to sack Chelsea managers, we can’t be too sure how safe Sarri’s spot in the Blues hot seat is.
The Blues are currently sitting in fourth place thanks to goal difference, if they slip in the second half of the season and fall out of the top four spots Abramovich will no doubt give the Italian the axe. The one thing Chelsea can’t accept next season is being without Champions League football once again.
If Sarri doesn’t suck it up and stop starting players based on their performances for the club in the past (Willian and Alonso), the second half of the season could prove to be challenging.
Realistic aim for the season
As mentioned above Chelsea’s primary aim for this season should be to comfortably qualify for the Champions League.
Their best bet of securing Champions League football is by finding the same consistency they enjoyed in the opening stages of the season. The Blues could qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League but they could face some difficult teams on their path to glory – it’s less risky to focus on a top four finish in the league.
The likes of Napoli and Inter Milan have dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in very tough Champions League groups. As well as the Italian giants the Blues will face competition to lift the cup from Arsenal and Europa League specialists Sevilla.
The Blues should look to iron out their defensive flaws in the second part of the season and they should also work on becoming more clinical in front of goal. Eden Hazard can’t play false nine for the rest of the season so it’s time for Chelsea to sign an attacker or time for Alvaro Morata to prove his worth.