You might think kickoffs are unimportant in a game of football but Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri definitely thinks otherwise.
Kickoffs play a huge role in “Sarriball’ and Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher has noticed the changes Sarri has made to Chelsea’s kickoffs this season.
When Chelsea kickoff games, the Blues have seven players on or very close to the halfway line. Sarri sets up the team this way for kickoff so Chelsea can put pressure on the opposition immediately the game starts.
According to Carragher’s analysis of Chelsea’s kickoff, Sarri sets up the team that way for kickoff, with ball being passed to the centre-back after kickoff and the centre-back then passing the ball out wide. As the ball goes wide, Chelsea already have numbers in forward positions already due to the number of players that stayed close to the halfway line, thereby putting Chelsea on the front foot immediately.
If this is executed brilliantly, it can lead to a goalscoring opportunity immediately after kickoff or put Chelsea in the front foot.
Chelsea executed this to perfection in the 3-2 win over Arsenal with David Luiz receiving the ball from kickoff and then picking out Marcos Alonso with a long and angled forward pass. Alonso then heads the ball on to Willian, who puts in a dangerous cross.
Analysing Chelsea’s kickoffs on Sky Sports, Carragher said: “The first thing his team did in the Premier League was away at Huddersfield with the kick-off and you look at it and think, OK, that’s different. You had seven players almost on the halfway line.
“The reason I liked it is that I am sick of teams taking the kick-off and ended up back with their own goalkeeper. You have got the ball on the halfway line. Look to go forward.
“They are already on the front foot. They have actually taken nine kick-offs, Chelsea, and there is only one where they have not done that. At least there is a plan. People think they are a waste of time and they are not important. They are important and if you can gain an advantage from it then fantastic.”