Sarri v Guardiola – the verdict after their tactical battle at Wembley

Maurizio Sarri saw his under-strength team lose at Wembley

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City secured a 2-0 win over Chelsea, led by Maurizio Sarri for the first time on English soil, in Sunday’s Community Shield at Wembley. It was a largely one-sided game and the Italian was without a number of key players.


Both sides were hampered by World Cup absentees. But while City have high calibre replacements, Chelsea are a far poorer team without Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante and Thibaut Courtois. Sarri’s first selection saw David Luiz restored and placed great faith in new boy Jorginho, alongside Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley in a three-man midfield which appeared vulnerable. Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Benjamin Mendy started for City, for whom Bernardo Silva was bright. Even without their front-line talents, City’s is a squad to envy.

© Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Sergio Aguero scored City’s goals


The personnel may not have been totally familiar, but City’s tactics were. Kyle Walker and Mendy surged down the flanks, Fernandinho patrolled central midfield and Foden, Silva, Leroy Sane and Mahrez buzzed around with Sergio Aguero lurking menacingly. After a preference for a back three under Antonio Conte, Sarri deployed a 4-3-3. Marcos Alonso appears more comfortable going forwards than defensively and the midfield was crying out for Kante’s attributes and more balance. Jorginho, who opted for Chelsea over City, was central to Sarri’s plans, but players to complement the Italy midfielder were lacking. City appeared able to pick off Chelsea at will.


Sarri describes Guardiola as the best coach in the world and a friend. He approached the Catalan in the tunnel prior to kick-off, wearing a wide smile and offering a warm handshake and embrace. Guardiola kept his game face on. The City boss meant business, despite his relaxed attire of pastel T-shirt, khaki trousers and trainers. Sarri, a heavy smoker, also regularly fiddled with what appeared to be a nicotine replacement.

© Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Jorginho gave the ball away on a couple of occasions

Celebrations and commiserations

Guardiola celebrated City’s opener, made by Foden and converted by Aguero, with gusto, as Sarri returned to the bench to converse with Gianfranco Zola, the former Chelsea playmaker and now assistant manager. Sarri had his arms crossed for much of the match. Guardiola was energetic, as usual, and thrilled with Aguero’s second. Sarri’s head sank, as if he realised just the size of the task facing him. It might have been worse but for some saves by Willy Caballero in the Chelsea goal.


Guardiola knows the challenges of life in the Premier League, having experienced a trying first season before a record-breaking second. Sarri may not have the luxury of patience and time at Chelsea, and certainly cannot expect to have the resources available to Guardiola at City. Sarri, three weeks into the job, will hope for Hazard and Kante to stick around and for his side to gel to his methods swiftly. Otherwise it could be a trying tenure.