Chelsea appoint Maurizio Sarri as head coach on three-year deal

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Chelsea have appointed Maurizio Sarri as their new head coach on a three-year contract.

The 59-year-old Italian takes over at Stamford Bridge from Antonio Conte, who was sacked on Friday.

During three years with Napoli, Sarri helped the club to two second-placed finishes in Serie A and won the Coach of the Year award in 2017.

Sarri said: “I am very happy to be coming to Chelsea and the Premier League. It is an exciting new period in my career.”

“I look forward to starting work and meeting the players on Monday ahead of travelling to Australia, where I will be able to get to know the squad and begin our match action,” Sarri added.

“I hope we can provide some entertaining football for our fans, and that we will be competing for trophies at the end of the season, which is what this club deserves.”

Director Marina Granovskaia added: “We are delighted to welcome Maurizio and are looking forward to him bringing his football philosophy to Chelsea.

“Maurizio’s Napoli side played some of the most exciting football in Europe, impressing with their attacking approach and dynamism, and his coaching methods significantly improved the players at his disposal.

“He has plenty of experience in Serie A and the Champions League and we know he is relishing the chance to work in the Premier League.”

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Retaining talent and other issues Maurizio Sarri needs to solve as Antonio Conte is sacked

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Antonio Conte has left his role as Chelsea head coach.

Whoever replaces the Italian – former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri is reportedly set for the role – has a series of challenging tasks to take on.

Here’s a look at some of those issues …

Be diplomatic

Antonio Conte was on message and delivered during his first season with Chelsea. Then, from a position of strength, the Italian challenged Roman Abramovich’s autocratic regime. It was only going to end one way.

For sustained success at Chelsea, it will require patience from both the head coach and the Chelsea hierarchy. Diplomacy will be necessary.

Conte of Chelsea gives out instructions

Rebuild bridges

The whingeing of Conte will have alienated players, staff and board members. The absence of a technical director, since Michael Emenalo’s November departure, will not have helped.

Conte’s replacement must have good relationships in both directions of Chelsea’s pyramid and a new technical director would be welcome. The players need to trust the new head coach.

Maurizio Sarri leaves the field

Foster leadership and unity

The departures of assistant Steve Holland, to England, and long-serving captain John Terry, to Aston Villa, last summer created a void which has not been adequately filled.

Gary Cahill has grown into the role of club captain, but Chelsea need more who lead by example in words and deed. There were too many lacklustre performances last season.

Cahill of Chelsea

Retain talent

This is largely a club issue, given Chelsea managers, or head coaches, have decreasing influence on transfer strategy. But it is clear Chelsea must make a swift decision on goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who has one year remaining on his contract and could be sold if he does not extend his deal, and Eden Hazard.

Hazard is hesitating over an offer to renew his contract, which expires in 2020, and wants “good” players to come in. Young talent, like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, should also be incorporated into the first team.

Eden Hazard of Chelsea runs

Win, win again and win well

The Blues are serial winners. Anything less than trophies is a disappointment – and a sackable offence. Even claiming two pieces of silverware could not spare Conte.

Abramovich has become accustomed to winning, and the Russian oligarch would settle for nothing less than a trophy and a Champions League return in 2018-19.

Roman Abramovich is seen

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Antonio Conte's 'suffering' now over but Chelsea exit was his own doing

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His time is up: Antonio Conte's Chelsea stint is over

Antonio Conte relishes confrontation and that may ultimately have proved his undoing at Chelsea.

The 48-year-old has been in argumentative mood since guiding the Blues to the Premier League title in his first season in charge.

And he was bullish after the FA Cup final win over Manchester United on May 19, describing himself as a “serial winner” who “can’t change”.

The challenge was: back me or sack me. The axe has now been wielded, but, coming 55 days after the Wembley win, Conte’s departure has been a messy one. He even took charge of the first days of pre-season training, with the non-World Cup players.

In the intervening period, Roman Abramovich has encountered diplomatic problems with his UK visa, leading to speculation about the viability of his long-term ownership, and Chelsea have indefinitely delayed the proposed rebuild of Stamford Bridge.

There is little argument that this is now the most challenging period in Chelsea’s recent history and that may make recruiting Conte’s successor difficult. Maurizio Sarri is favourite for the role, after a protracted courtship.

The 2016-17 league title success was a surprise, Conte insisted. No-one expected the Chelsea which imploded under Jose Mourinho and then limped to a 10th-placed finish under interim boss Guus Hiddink to win the title, he said.

After a difficult start, including a 3-0 loss at Arsenal, Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation which prompted a 13-match winning run in the league and propelled Chelsea to glory.

Conte described the season as difficult on a personal level as he had to live apart from wife Elisabetta and school-age daughter Vittoria, who had remained in Italy.

They joined him in Surrey, living near Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham, ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.

But the initial sign that all was not well with Chelsea was when Conte signed a new contract, on improved terms, but not an extension.

The expiry date was still June 2019, the same as the three-year deal which he signed on taking the job after leaving Italy in July 2016.

That he lasted this long, completing the campaign and the summer, is a surprise. Successive losses by a three-goal margin to Bournemouth and Watford before Valentine’s Day might have consigned many Chelsea managers to the axe.

Conte was fortunate he had earned some good will, but he quickly allowed that to erode away, his relationship with the Chelsea hierarchy disintegrating.

The departures of technical director Michael Emenalo, assistant Steve Holland and captain John Terry cannot have helped.

The FA Cup victory proved to be the last game for Antonio Conte

The FA Cup victory proved to be the last game for Antonio Conte

Conte warned against a repeat of the “Mourinho season” which followed the 2014-15 title win under the Portuguese.

He complained about the size of his squad which was embarking on a return to the Champions League, but he also jettisoned Diego Costa. Admittedly the Spain striker had repeatedly agitated for a move during his three years at Stamford Bridge.

Conte moaned about fixture congestion, largely brought about by European football and broadcasters’ demands.

And he responded in kind to the verbal barbs thrown in his direction by Mourinho, his predecessor at Chelsea.

Conte insisted he was not worried about the prospect of the sack.

He pointed to Chelsea’s hire-and-fire policy under Abramovich and admitted he was no diplomat. He will still be coveted by Europe’s elite clubs, although he appears likely to have to wait for a vacancy. And he will still have an income from Chelsea, for now.

He wanted to strengthen last summer, replacing experience with experience, but that was contrary to Chelsea’s recent transfer strategy.

Conte declined to openly discuss transfers, but he appeared to repeatedly try to absolve himself of blame by referring to his title as “head coach”.

The former Juventus and Italy boss insisted his task was to improve the players at his disposal. He would make recruitment recommendations to “the club”, if asked.

The “Mourinho season” did not happen. There has been a different kind of calamity under Conte, much of his own making.

Chelsea finished fifth in the Premier League, missing out on Champions League qualification, but won the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over United.

Conte spoke of “suffering” ahead of matches with Manchester City and Barcelona.

For the Italian and those Chelsea fans whose affection for Conte has dimmed the suffering is now over.

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