Maurizio Sarri got his first taste of top-flight English football when Chelsea travelled to Huddersfield on the opening day and secured a fine 3-0 win, thanks to goals from N’Golo Kante, new recruit Jorginho (from the spot) and Pedro. The Italian has been in charge for little less than a month but is trying his level best to instill his philosophy among the players.
The club broke the transfer record for a goalkeeper when they activated the release clause of Athletic Bilbao shot-stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga. He, alongside Jorginho and Rob Green and Real Madrid loanee Mateo Kovacic, all arrived at the West London Club as part of the new look Chelsea team under a new management after Antonio Conte left.
Chelsea host Arsenal on Saturday, the latter having lost to current champions Manchester City at home last weekend. A lot has been speculated on who’s going to make the starting 11 for Chelsea ahead of the glamour London derby fixture so early on in the season.
French World Cup winner N’Golo Kante and deep-lying playmaker Jorginho are the first two names in the pecking order for the former Napoli head coach. But a decision will have to be made sooner rather than later on who will feature alongside them as the third midfield option as he works on how to implement Sarriball to devastating effect.
Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic and Cesc Fabregas are all aiming for a place in the first team. Let us see who is most likely to make the cut this season.
1. Ross Barkley
The 24-year-old made the switch to Chelsea last winter but failed to cement his place in the first team due to a recurrence of the injury he suffered at Everton which kept him out for a prolonged period. Now fully fit, the former Everton man will be looking to impress new manager Maurizio Sarri.
Barkley has been training under his new boss since the latter arrived at Stamford Bridge and has featured in every pre-season fixture. He started the opening game against Huddersfield and will be hoping to feature again this Saturday when Chelsea take on Arsenal.
Blessed with pace, great movement, a fair amount of creativity and an eye for goal, the Englishman has great technical ability – which Sarri is likely aware of. Though Barkley is yet to peak, regular game time will certainly help him improve and make him a regular starter for his club, ultimately ensuring he lives up to his billing.
2. Mateo Kovacic
The Croatian hardly featured for Real Madrid after joining them from Inter Milan, and was desperately looking for more minutes on the pitch.
Kovacic has begun life under Maurizio Sarri and the Italian believes his quality will give Chelsea an added dimension in Chelsea’s star-studded midfield. Relatively fresh, he can finally make a mark for his new club and will be looking to feature heavily as Sarri’s top choice once he regains full fitness.
3. Ruben Loftus-Cheek
At just 22, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the youngest midfielder in the Chelsea squad this season. And he is pure, raw talent.
Loftus-Cheek is believed to have turned down another loan at Selhurst Park, much to Roy Hodgson’s disappointment; he wants to stay at Chelsea and fight for a place. He showed glimpses of his powerful skills last season and Sarri believes his decision to stay put will only give him a positive headache.
4. Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas has been instrumental to the club’s fortunes ever since he arrived, contributing immensely in the two title-winning campaigns through his assists and goals. But he now on the wrong side of 30, and many would consider him as the weak link in Chelsea’s midfield.