Mumbai: The defence of yet another league title begins for Chelsea and Antonio Conte, as the Blues look to assert their dominance in English football, in an era when they are surrounded by a number of potential title contenders – Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
However, the main worry for the Chelsea supporters will be a possible repetition of the 2015/16 season, when they hovered just a few points above the relegation zone at Christmas, as they went on to finish 10th by the end of the season.
What looks good
For the first time in over a decade, it looks like the Blues finally have a manager who is here for the long haul. Antonio Conte has captured the imagination of the Chelsea fans with his robustness and passionate celebrations from the technical area; a passionate manager is often essential to motivate the players, who are required to put in demanding shifts under the Conte system.
It is not just the emotion that Conte brings into the game. Behind the face contorted with different kinds expression, lies a mind that is constantly looking over the tactical side of the game. Conte has shown that he does not flinch from overhauling a system that is not working.
What does not
Eden Hazard’s injury is of huge concern for the Blues. We have all seen how much of a difference the Benglian makes for Chelsea, with his trickery and pace, both up front, and on the wings.
While they do have the likes of Pedro and Willian to fill in on the wide areas for now, Conte will be hoping for a swift return to the turf by his talismanic player, who is not expected to return before another month.
With the likes of second choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero, defender Antony Rudiger and defensive midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko would have boosted the Chelsea squad to a large extent. The trio fills up the spaces left vacant by the likes of Asmir Begovic, John Terry, and Nemanja Matic, respectively.
However, the biggest news so far for the Blues so far from the transfer market, is the signing of Spanish forward Alvaro Morata. Although Morata has not played under Conte before his Chelsea move, the Spaniard has operated successfully as a forward at Juventus, where the foundations of the 3-5-2 system was laid by Conte. Therefore, we could expect Morata to have some sort of familiarity with Conte’s system at Chelsea.
His signing makes the impending Diego Costa departure much more digestible for the Chelsea supporters.
Chelsea may have run away with the trophy at the end of last season, riding the tactical mind of their Italian manager Antonio Conte. The three-at-the-back system has worked very well for them.
However, Arsene Wenger had exposed Conte’s 3-4-3 formation, both in the FA Cup final last season when Arsenal won 2-1, and in the FA Community Shield last week, which the Gunners clinched on penalties after being behind their cross-town rivals for most of the match.
Wenger cleverly set his own team up in the 3-4-3 formation against Chelsea, thus crowding the middle of the park, to make it difficult for the Blues to play their swift attacking game.
Interestingly, injuries to wide attackers like Hazard and Pedro could afford Conte with the opportunity of changing tings to the formation with which he conquered Italy from Turin – the 3-5-2.
Instead of the two attacking wingers, Conte gets the option of playing an extra striker and a midfielder, something that could solve the problems they faced while playing against Arsenal.
It is extremely difficult for a team to defend its title in English football. To add to that, Chelsea have the added pressure of not falling into the slump they did, under Jose Mourinho, in the 2015/16 season. However, the Blues have looked solid this season, and it looks unlikely that they will finish outside the top four.