Former Chelsea midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah worked under Maurizio Sarri during his loan spell at Napoli and in an interview with James Richardson’s Golazzo podcast in May, Chalobah revealed how Sarri showed him a whole new world of football.
“He was a nice guy but he was very into his work and like I said, tactically he knew how to set the team up and how to try to stop the opposition and it was something that we worked on every single day in training,” Chalobah said.
“And for me it was new because I went into training thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to play small-sided games, it’s going to be a lot of physicality and everything else’ and it was just all technical, sessions were about 40 minutes, and you were done and inside.
“It was ‘This is how I want you to play, this is how you’re going to play, this is how you beat this team, this is how you beat that team, this is how you stop this team’.
“That’s down to the manager because of the play-throughs that he goes through and the way he wants the team to play. He’s very clear on how he wants things done and if I played a pass and it trickled in to someone he goes crazy. If someone plays a pass and it’s slow, he goes ‘I want it quicker’. And that shows week in and week out when they play games, it’s great stuff to watch. Like I said, it’s down the to the manager, do it his way and if you do it right obviously you’ll reap the rewards.”
Chalobah also revealed how Sarri has different set plays mapped out for his team.
“I got there and I’d never practiced a throw-in in my life and I got there and they had about ten different signals, so they gave me a sheet of paper on my first day to study these signals,” Chalobah added.
“I’ve gone, ‘What? Sorry?’ They said, ‘yeah, you have to study the signals for the throw-ins because the midfielders are involved.’ So at this point I am lost and like I said, again he got really impatient with me because he expected me to pick up quite quickly. I used to stand behind Hamšík and follow what he’s doing. I don’t think I picked it up until about two months, because there were so many signals, so many throw-ins, so many corners and you had to be in the exact place that he wanted you to be in.
“On the defensive side of things, in the formation that we played, it was when to press and when you don’t press. And it was almost like there was a line in the middle of the pitch, it wasn’t drawn on there but it was like a marker for you to know whether you go or whether you don’t.
“And when I did it, it worked out. So when I came back to England and we played in games, I used that method still and literally it’s what I still use now and it’s something I picked up but it’s also something that I learned.
“It was a time for me to learn about positioning, to actually study the game.
“He’s a great manager, technically he’s probably up there, one of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve worked with.
“But in terms of man his management, I think he was pretty good with the group of boys he was working with because in Italy there’s about eleven players on the bench and it’s very hard to keep everyone happy. But he had conversations here and there with players and if you stepped into his office he was more than open to have a conversation with you.
“He helped me when I got there first because I had a few conversations with him in terms of what I need to do and he lost his patience with me a few times when he was trying to explain something and I didn’t understand and I’m just looking at him like, “Oop, I don’t know what to do.” But yeah, it was OK in the end.
“He’s got the ability to drive his team, whichever team he’s at, he’s got the ability to get the best out of the players and to get them playing good football on the football pitch. I think everyone’s seen it and he’s a great guy as well. And I think he will do well if he came into the Premier League.”