Maurizio Sarri left himself open to criticism by tweaking N’Golo Kante’s role at Chelsea, says Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but questioning of the Italian in his debut campaign remains “unfair”.
The 2018-19 campaign started positively enough for the new man at the Stamford Bridge helm, with an 18-game unbeaten run taken in on the back of a Community Shield defeat.
‘Sarriball’ earned plenty of plaudits, with a coach cutting his teeth in English football considered to have implemented a winning formula.
The mood has changed somewhat in west London over recent weeks, with inconsistency having set in.
Former Blues striker Hasselbaink forms part of that group, with the Dutchman telling Sky Sports: “I think the criticism is a little unfair towards him, he had a really good start to the season.
“He has put Kante in a different position because he sees that position in a different way and that is where it [the criticism] started.
“Whatever you say, Kante is the best defensive midfield player at winning the ball back, so that has raised eyebrows.
“He believes in his way. He believes in playing football in a certain way and that is dominating the ball in possession. That is how he believes Chelsea is eventually going to win titles and cups.
“You need to give him the time, it's only six or seven months that he's been in the building, so you need to give him the time and you need to give him the trust.”
While calling for patience when it comes to Sarri’s footballing philosophy, Hasselbaink concedes that a Chelsea side which followed up a 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth with a 5-0 mauling of Huddersfield needs to find a way of being less hit and miss.
He added: “At the moment they are really inconsistent and they need to get that consistency of winning games again.
“They are going through a bad spell and nobody would have thought they would have lost against Bournemouth in that way. It's a difficult moment for Chelsea when they are playing away and still having that style of play.
“They are making chances but they are not scoring the goals and hopefully that can change now with [Gonzalo] Higuain. Can they now go to the next level? That is the question.”
Chelsea have moved back into the Premier League’s top four and have a Carabao Cup final outing, an FA Cup fifth-round clash with Manchester United and a Europa League last-32 encounter with Malmo to look forward to.
Their focus at present, though, is locked on a trip to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday which will see them trying to put a dent in Manchester City’s bid for back-to-back title triumphs.