Maurizio Sarri was a stubborn manager, sticking very much with the same system and the same players over and over again.
That doesn’t mean that chance and circumstance didn’t force him into changes as the year went on, but he had a select XI that only evolved very slowly as time went on.
But despite that, the last year has seen a slew of changes at Chelsea, with some arrivals and a lot of departures. And Frank Lampard finds himself managing a very different team a year on since Sarri debuted with a 3-0 win over Huddersfield
To start the season at the John Smith’s Stadium, the Italian coach went with the following team:
Azpi, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso.
Kante, Jorginho, Barkley.
Willian, Morata, Pedro.
On Sunday, Frank Lampard could very feasibly pick this side:
Azpi, Christensen, Zouma, Emerson.
Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount.
Pulisic, Giroud, Willian.
That would mean just FOUR players in the starting XI from a year ago, a quite unprecedented turnover.
There are a number of factors here. N’Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger’s injuries, the arrival of Christian Pulisic to displace a winger, the sales of David Luiz and Alvaro Morata, the advantage Emerson seems to have in the battle to start at left full back.
That is quite amazing turnover for 12 months, and it shows what turmoil the club has been in over the last year. Considering we’ve had a transfer ban, and the fact we haven’t even accounted for the departure of Eden Hazard (whom Sarri rested on opening day last year), the record becomes even more striking.
What this all means is a huge opportunity for a great number of players who have been on the bench or on loan in recent seasons. Almost nobody in the top flight (apart from perhaps the extravagantly spending Aston Villa) will start with such a changed team this season – and with a new manager too.
It all adds to the excitement around Chelsea at the moment. Nobody knows what to expect – for better or for worse. We’re delighted to see a new age dawning, but it will be a while before we know whether we’re headed in the right direction just yet.
Changing a lot in one go is rarely a popular move in football, and not often a recipe for short term success. But sometimes it’s better to tear the plaster off in one painful moment than extend the agony more than necessary.