While Maurizio Sarri’s fear of a slow start at Chelsea may have been unfounded with two wins from his opening two games, the coach insists his side are still very much a work in progress.
Chelsea will travel to Newcastle on Sunday aiming to make it three wins from as many Premier League games this season, and the Italian realises that defensively, there is still work to be done.
Against the Gunners, it took a late winner from left-back Marcos Alonso to secure a 3-2 victory after Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi had cancelled out Chelsea’s early two-goal lead.
And while Newcastle might not have the firepower to threaten the Blues in the way City and Arsenal did, Sarri knows his hopes of steering the club back into the top four will not be helped by a leaky back-line.
The 59-year-old said Chelsea’s defence was not still up to speed when he explained the ongoing absence of Gary Cahill, insisting it was harder for defenders to adjust to his methods than more attack-minded players.
“I think that, in this moment, for a defender it’s more difficult to play in my team after only 20 days of training,” said Sarri.
“I am not worried about the defensive phase because, when I arrive at a new team, usually I have problems with the defensive phase for two or three months. So I think it’s normal for me.”
Sarri insisted a back-four was crucial to his plans to introduce the approach dubbed ‘Sarri-ball’ at former club Napoli to England.
“I am not able to play with five defenders, because we are trying to defend by looking only at the ball,” he said.
“In this way, if I defend with five defenders, I lose immediately metres on the pitch. I am not able. I tried five years ago, but it’s not my way.”
The coach can be satisfied, though, that with Hazard due to return to full fitness soon, his side’s attacking strengths should provide the breathing space needed to adjust.