A lot has happened at Chelsea since the end of last season. The champions have endured a difficult couple of months. An opening day 3-2 home defeat by Burnley just added to doubts about the Blues ability to win the Premier League title this season.
With those doubts in mind, Chelsea travelled to face London rivals Tottenham on Sunday at Wembley. Despite Spurs’ woeful record at their temporary home, Mauricio Pochettino’s men were hot favourites to defeat the champions.
The fact Chelsea was missing the spine of their team from last season’s title-winning side added to the expectation of a Tottenham win. However, somehow a patched up Blues side recorded a 2-1 victory, courtesy of a brace from wing-back Marcos Alonso.
A patched up team
On paper, Chelsea looked like they were set up to park the bus. The only attacking players in the team were Brazilian winger Willian and striker Alvaro Morata. The other outfield players were essentially defensive players.
A central midfielder three of N’Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko and centre-back David Luiz suggested the Blues were happy to contain Tottenham at first. However, the Blues were able to hit Tottenham on the counter-attack expertly.
Alonso was one of the keys to that strategy. Chelsea have reportedly tried to find an upgrade to the Spaniard. In truth, it would seem foolhardy now in hindsight to suggest that the Blues could find a player better to fulfil his role.
Alonso was a constant attacking out ball for his team. His two goals just illustrated his ability to pop up in attacking positions with vital contributions.
Conte got it tactically spot on
Chelsea boss Conte is renowned for his tactical acumen. The Italian’s decision to switch to three at the back last season turned the Blues campaign around. On Sunday, the former Juventus boss got his tactics spot on.
The defensive nature of Conte’s line-up illustrated that the Blues knew that Tottenham posed a big attacking threat, while the visitors were short on forward-thinking players.
Putting David Luiz in the centre of midfield turned out to be a masterstroke. The Brazilian has played in the position in the past, but not on a regular basis. However, his presence in the centre of midfield was crucial to setting up the winning goal for Alonso.
Willian enjoyed a typically energetic display in midfield, while Morata produced a decent display playing as the focal point of the Blues attack.
For Chelsea to go away to Tottenham and claim maximum points with the players they had missing was a massive result. Conte’s game plan and strategy were a major reason for the champion’s big victory at Wembley.
Cannot write Chelsea off
The last article I wrote about Chelsea I stated that the Blues were not in the best place. However, I also wrote that the men from south west London should never be written-off.
When Chelsea experienced a poor period at the start of last season, some were questioning Antonio Conte’s position. Newspaper reports this season suggested that he could be leaving his position at the club in the near future.
The win at Tottenham shows that the players are right behind their Italian boss and there is not a Jose Mourinho-style collapse on the horizon at Stamford Bridge. The Blues are now odds of 13/2 to retain their Premier League crown.
It is difficult to judge Chelsea on their first two displays of the Premier League campaign. However, as champions, the Blues are always likely to be under the microscope. Criticism after the first game was not totally unfair, as Conte’s side were poor.
The win at Tottenham showed that the team spirit is still strong at Chelsea, even without key players from last season Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa.
There is still plenty of football still to be played and it would be highly surprising if the Blues were not title contenders going into the final stretch of the campaign.
What have you made of Chelsea so far this season?
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