Arriving at a new club in a new country can be difficult at the best of times, but after six months in charge Maurizio Sarri can largely be content with the work he has done at Chelsea.
Though their form has dropped off in recent weeks after a record-breaking start to Premier League life for the former Napoli boss, signs are that things will only get better for the Blues under the former Napoli boss.
But, as with any coach looking to alter the playing style of a new club, there are some who have shone and others whose impact has dwindled.
So who are the winners and loses of the ‘Sarriball’ revolution as we head into 2019? Goal takes a look…
WINNER: Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard has already marked himself out as a frontrunner for this season’s PFA Player of the Year and other prestigious individual prizes in English football with a sensational start to the season.
The 27-year-old has 12 goals and nine assists in all competitions, marking himself out as the most productive attacking player in England. This comes amid a backdrop of uncertainty around his future, though his performances will only give Hazard more leverage in future talks.
In one scenario, Hazard’s form gives him a chance to ask for a substantial wage increase so as to conclude his career at Stamford Bridge, while it may also entice Real Madrid into a big money move. It would be a transfer that Hazard has admitted to dreaming of.
Meanwhile, back on the pitch, Hazard is clearly still Chelsea’s star player and pivotal to anything they achieve this season. He has even moved into a false nine position, marking himself out to be the their go-to man in all attacking positions.
LOSER: Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas might be highly valued by Sarri as a deputy to Jorginho in the regista role at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield, but that admiration will likely be bittersweet for one of the Blues’ most decorated stars.
The Premier League assist king is playing in a deeper role but has only started one league game, as he operates in Chelsea’s ‘B’ team for cup competitions.
The 31-year-old’s contract is expiring in six months, meaning that he will be able to speak to clubs in January, with AC Milan and Monaco aiming to find a way of getting a deal done for the Spain international.
Fabregas may be tempted to take an offer after growing unhappy with his level of game time and a feeling that he has more to offer Sarri.
WINNER: Maurizio Sarri
It can all turn quickly in the Premier League, especially at a club as volatile as Chelsea, but it is worth noting that Sarri has achieved a lot in his short spell at the club.
Chelsea are now five points clear of Arsenal in the Premier League’s competitive race for a Champions League spot. To be fourth after overhauling the club’s playing style is a testament to Sarri’s ability to get his ideas across to a group of footballers who are used to playing without as much possession as they are now.
The Blues sit just two points behind Totenham going into 2019, and should now target becoming the best team in London, with Sarri having ruled his side out of the title race.
It is worth noting that Chelsea are also in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and that they have eased to the last 32 of the Europa League, and that is even before they begin their defence of the FA Cup in January.
LOSER: Alvaro Morata
It may be harsh to put it down to Sarri, but Alvaro Morata has not managed to show his best form under his new manager, just as he was unable to do under the Italian coach’s predecessor, Conte .
Sarri’s confidence in Morata has appeared to be shaken after defeats to Tottenham and Wolves in early December, which then saw him dropped from five consecutive domestic games, missing only one of those through a minor injury.
Seven goals in 26 games for club and country shows that Morata has not been able to revitalise himself to become the £58 million man, plus the add-ons rising to £70m, that Chelsea wanted him to be.
There are now rumours of a January departure which would spell an end to his failed time in west London, with further noise that AC Milan’s Gonzalo Higuain will be the man to come in and replace him during the winter window.
WINNER: David Luiz
In the final months of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea tenure, David Luiz was nowhere to be seen having been dropped in February afollowing a disastrous 4-1 away defeat to Watford.
Sarri quickly came in and put an end to any possibility that the 31-year-old would leave the club by throwing him at the heart of his defence.
Luiz has flourished under Sarri, offering a greater range of passing than any of his defensive peers in a team that dominates possession. He has also been praised by Sarri for his leadership qualities, with his personality a bonus to his contribution on the pitch.
Sarri is keen to see Luiz tied down to a new contract but Chelsea’s policy of only offering players over the age of 30 one year deals may thwart their chances.
Still, these six months for Luiz have shown that he still has something to offer at the top level, something that many may had begun to doubt.
LOSER: Victor Moses
If you thought that Fabregas was on the fringe, spare a thought for many names who having fallen even further down the pecking order.
Victor Moses was an automatic starter under Conte as a right-sided wing back but he has since become an unwanted player as Chelsea move to a back four under Sarri.
In fact, he has not played since October, which is in stark contrast to the 38 appearances made last season for the club.
Sarri considers Moses not threatening enough to play on the wing and not defensively sound enough for the back four, and as such he will be seeking an urgent exit in the January transfer window.
Moses has completed 90 minutes only once under Sarri against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup and has played for just a further 65 minutes in all competitions.
Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen and Danny Drinkwater are also players who will be disappointed with their level of game time under Sarri, and Cahill and Drinkwater could join Fabregas and Moses out of the exit door.