Heading into December, games are coming thick and fast with eight games to play before the end of the year.
If ever there was a time for the team to start regaining the verve which they started the season with, now would be the perfect time to do so in an attempt to, firstly, keep tabs with Manchester City and Liverpool and, secondly, ensure Arsenal and Spurs are kept below us in the table in the fight to finish in the Champions League spaces.
Daily Football Tips
If Chelsea are to be competitive throughout the season, the midfield area will be essential.
The midfield area has been contentious at Chelsea recently, particularly post-Tottenham when Jorginho’s athletic deficiencies were wholly exposed against a team with exceptional physical capabilities and a clear gameplan to nullify the Italian’s influence on the game.
The role of N’Golo Kante has been central to the debate, with many pundits believing that Kante 'should be put where he belongs' at the base of Sarri’s midfield trio.
It’s true that Kante is the best ball-winning midfielder in world football, with his anticipation and ability to pinch the ball unrivalled. However, Kante is, for the first time in his career, playing for a team which has the intention to dominate possession thus essentially nullifying the Frenchman’s key skills.
The Fulham game exemplified the absolute best of Kante in a position nearer to the opponent’s goal, which Sarri has opted to task him with.
His dispossession of Jean Michael Seri on the halfway would not have occurred if Kante was in the deeper role which many people advocate, whereas his release allowed him to win the ball high up the pitch and spring into an attacking position before releasing the underrated Pedro, who made it 1-0.
Sarri has been brought to Chelsea to oversee a transition into a different style of play into a more possession-based game. The signing of Jorginho was a show of support to Sarri in his attempts to radically change the style of football.
Sarri will not, and has not, changed after one poor result with his principles of play unwavering. Jorginho is a fantastic footballer who is able to pass effectively under pressure and dictate our passing game.
In a possession-based side, I feel it’s essential to have a ball-player at the base of midfield and therefore the conundrum for Sarri regarding Jorginho and Kante is not one of position but one of finding a way to combat teams who look to man-mark Jorginho.
Both players are superb at their particular roles, Jorginho was wanted by Pep Guardiola, which is indicative of his capabilities, while Kante is a two-time Premier League winner and World Cup winner.
The Manchester City game on December 9th will be the next litmus test for the development in the area of the pitch which is most spoken about by the media regarding Chelsea.
One player who has taken his game to another level in his recent appearances and represents a potential solution to the difficulties in build-up when Jorginho is nullified, is Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
The boy from Lewisham who came through the Chelsea academy is playing like a man who feels as though he belongs in the team of a top club, as opposed to playing on the periphery of games whilst overawed by his more illustrious teammates.
There are few midfielders in world football who possess such an imposing combination of physique and technique. Now is the time for Loftus-Cheek to cement his place in the Chelsea team at the expense of Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley.
In a side that lacks goals, penetration from midfield is vital and for all Kovacic’s technical qualities, Loftus-Cheek is far more likely to decide the game in the final third of the pitch.
He is averaging a goal every 99 minutes on the field this season, with five goals in nine appearances including a crucial strike against Fulham; an excellent return for any midfield player.
This is a player who looks to believe in his ability to make a real impact on any game he appears in under a coach who appears to be aiding his tactical development.
Loftus-Cheek’s talent is obvious and now is the time for him to become an important player in Chelsea’s present as well as Chelsea’s future.
Going forward, a midfield of Jorginho at the base, Kante in a slightly less advanced role to where he’s performing currently, and Loftus-Cheek as the third midfielder with license to influence the game in forward areas would be my preference to get the best out of all three players.
Those three provide an excellent balance of ball-playing ability, power, athleticism and goal threat, especially with the introduction of Loftus-Cheek. Each of these players has weaknesses but their strengths combine to create a complete midfield.
Options such as Cesc Fabregas, Barkley and Kovacic ensure it’s an area of depth and quality. It’s now up to Sarri to find the best solution whilst sticking to the principles of play which he was appointed to introduce.