Chelsea have a new-found confidence under Maurizio Sarri which has been the catalyst for the Blues’ flying start to the Premier League campaign, according to former winger Clive Walker.
Chelsea head into a crunch London derby with Tottenham at Wembley just four points behind leaders Manchester City after 12 unbeaten games.
And Walker believes the impact Sarri has had since his arrival at Stamford Bridge has exceeded expectations.
“Man City are going like a steam train and Chelsea are only four points behind. I think it’s absolutely amazing,” Walker told Ian Stone’s Comedy Breakfast (weekdays 6.30am-10.30am).
“We have to be realistic that at the beginning of the season the new manager came in and nobody really knew what was going to happen.
“I think from Chelsea’s position of being out of the Champions League I think it’s imperative that they get back in.
“They have been playing above expectations from the start of the season, however as the season has unfolded everybody is amazed at the way some of the players have risen to the occasion and improved immensely from maybe what we’ve seen over recent years.”
Ex-Chelsea midfielder Clive Walker thinks that although N'Golo Kante hasn't been his best he's still indispensable to Maurizio Sarri's side.— Love Sport Radio (@lovesportradio) November 23, 2018
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It has been well documented that Sarri has given the Chelsea players greater freedom in training which contrasts greatly with his compatriot Antonio Conte’s almost regimental style of management.
The likes of Willian have performed a U-turn on what looked a likely departure from west London, while Walker cited David Luiz as evidence of a player that has stepped up to Sarri’s demands.
“David Luiz is probably a prime example. Everybody felt that he was on his way and would never cut it again in the Premier League but the guy has risen again and been a stalwart at the back,” Walker added.
“There are players that have stepped up to the plate a lot more than expected and they’re enjoying themselves and I think that’s a major factor.”
A lot has also been made about Sarri’s decision to deploy N’Golo Kante in an advanced role to accommodate the arrival of Jorginho in the centre of midfield, a decision that is beginning to be vindicated.
And Walker, who made 198 league appearances for the Blues between 1976 and 1984, believes the Frenchman has taken time to adjust but is confident we have seen improvements from the 27-year-old.
“We’re not quite getting the N’Golo Kante we’ve seen for the last couple of seasons and I think that’s slightly worrying,” Walker said.
“It’s where you position him. The change of formation to 4-3-3 has made him play a little bit differently, I think he’s learning the position and it’s taking time. He’s got better very quietly.”