PICTURES: Chelsea working towards max fitness with special tests at Cobham

After a deserved day off following the weekend’s exertions against Arsenal (in addition to the standard no-training day following a matchday), Chelsea returned to Cobham on Tuesday to start preparing for the upcoming match away at Newcastle, and continue building fitness for and understanding of Sarri-ball.

Chelsea are coming along slowly but surely as far as the quality of play is concerning, but the “quantity” is still lacking after a short pre-season that saw most key players return late. too. As the head coach lamented after the 15 minutes that almost cost us three points at home against the Gunners, the squad need something as basic as just a bit more stamina to even begin to properly executive the tactics consistently.

“In terms of quality not too much [more is needed], because in the first 25 minutes we did really very well. We moved the ball very quickly, fast, we played vertical balls and we did really very well. So in terms of quality, we are going very well.

“In quantity [of running], we have to improve. We have to improve which I think is normal. We started to work all together just two weeks ago, so my target now is to play 90 minutes like we played our first 25. I think in this way of football, if you don’t cover the distances, you are in trouble. I am talking about in my way of football specifically.”

-Maurizio Sarri

So, unsurprisingly, Tuesday’s work involved some non-standard training equipment to gauge the players’ progress. These fitness exams, including the VO2 max tests pictured, should give an exact picture of the physical condition of the players and where they need to improve.

A VO2 max test measures the subject’s maximum rate of oxygen consumption, which correlates to the subject’s endurance capacity and overall level of fitness. For a system that relies on 90 minutes of pressing, stamina and endurance are key.

These sorts of test are uncommon but not unheard of and are increasing in popularity (in a wide variety of sports) as more and more science enters the world of sports. Southampton, for example, utilized it back in 2014 and a related concept, the altitude mask, has been seen on the likes of Michy Batshuayi before. The altitude mask restricts oxygen to force the body to learn to compensate for it by increasing performance/endurance and improving oxygen uptake/saturation (in theory anyway).

While it’s nice to see the boys in good spirits even during these “boring” fitness tests, hopefully it does mean that we’re slowly working the whole squad back to full match fitness. Might Eden Hazard and Mateo Kovačić be ready to starton Sunday? Maybe!

On a side note, it’s also incredible how good Marcos Alonso’s hair looks despite the mask. No wonder he’s wanted by the two Madrid giants!

If you want to know a bit more about all this, here’s a fairly informative video, which also goes into anaerobic threshold and lactic acid.

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