Definition of Sarri-ball

What is the meaning of the term Sarri-ball when it comes to the sport of soccer?

First and foremost, Maurizio Sarri is an Italian football manager who, at the time of this writing, is coaching the English Premier League side Chelsea FC. Sarri-ball is a system developed by Maurizio, which came into the spotlight during an awesome S.S.C. Napoli Serie A campaign in 2017/18, which saw them in a title battle with Juventus. Napoli did not win the title, but Sarri's system got the plaudits and earned him a lucrative contract in London.

The Sarri-ball system relies on aggression, high pressing and compactness on defense. The defensive responsibilities start with the front three players who put pressure on the opposition to try and get them to cause a mistake. The Sarri-ball is a very physically demanding system and requires a top level of player fitness. It also demands optimum concentration.

The whole team revolves around the CDM (central midfielder) with the five players in front pivoting around him. The entire team moves around the pitch as a unit. The Italian player Jorginho, was used by Sarri at Napoli in the CDM role and is again used at Chelsea. The two, Sarri and Jorginho, basically arrived to Chelsea at the same time and possibly as part of the same package.

Playing Sarri-ball means staying compact and having a high defensive line. The space between the front players and back players is minimized whenever possible. The two center backs and the CDM play a possession football triangle with the aim to to lure the opponent in. What often follows is a speedy and accurate break forward.

Sarri-ball takes a while to learn and even longer to master. It takes three months to get decent at it according to the manager. Being comfortable with the ball is probably the most important part of the system. Every player included. Sharp passing patterns are used throughout the game.

Sarri-ball is an attractive football to watch, but it's use does open the team to vulnerabilities. One is that a lot of space is left behind while running a high defensive line, which leaves the team exposed to opposing players running in.


Sarri-ball is currently being tested in England with limited success. If the system has a bright future on the island or elsewhere is something we will learn in time.