Sarri needs time to thrive at Chelsea as Guardiola did at City - Zola

LONDON -- Pep Guardiola's success after early difficulties at Manchester City should encourage Chelsea to give Maurizio Sarri time, his assistant Gianfranco Zola has said.

Three defeats in four Premier League games -- culminating in last weekend's 6-0 humiliation at City -- have put Sarri under pressure to reinvigorate Chelsea's faltering challenge for a top-four finish.

Guardiola defended Sarri after the match at the Etihad Stadium, and Zola suggested City's Premier League title triumph last season was something the Chelsea boss could emulate if given the chance to fully implement his style.

"Two years ago, you were probably asking the same questions to Pep Guardiola," Zola said.

"You were asking if he'd keep playing from the back all the time. He said this was not in discussion and is part of my game, even in the difficult moments.

"Maybe he adapted. He has improved a lot in that, because he got his team defending better and pressing better, attacking better. He has adjusted something but not the way he saw football.

"You admire what Pep has done. Certainly he's a good inspiration. Not everything comes together straight away."

Sarri's reluctance to depart from his favoured 4-3-3 formation, and his tendency to make like-for-like substitutions even when the team are losing, have exasperated some Chelsea supporters.

Zola, however, said: "How do you know we are not making changes? We are adjusting a few things.

"There are questions about what we're doing, a lot of doubts, but we are trying to adapt to the league. But we don't change what we believe is good for this club, because otherwise we are nothing."

Chelsea's recent setbacks have coincided with reports of player unrest over Sarri's management style and training methods, but Zola said he did not expect the former Napoli coach to change his outlook.

"You know Maurizio -- he's very straightforward," he added. "He says what he thinks. That's the way he is. Sometimes he's strong in what he says, but always very honest.

"He works a lot on his football. He's very passionate about it. The more you know him, the more you like it. Sometimes he's strong and doesn't go round the corner. He goes straight to the point."

Watch Monday's FA Cup fifth round clash between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge live on ESPN+ at 2:30 p.m. ET.