At the beginning of the campaign, the British media seemed to be obsessed with Pep Guardiola’s arrival and Jose Mourinho’s return to the Premier League.
Italian boss Antonio Conte’s arrival in the English top-flight was almost a side note.
However, on Saturday evening Conte’s Chelsea hammered sixth-place Everton 5-0 at Stamford Bridge to go to the top of the table. The win made it five Premier League wins and clean sheets on the trot.
The Blues were simply brilliant and that is hard to say as a supporter of the opposition that has just been trounced.
Switch brought out the best in some
I have always had a fascination with Conte since his days resurrecting Juventus in Serie A. That led to me getting over excited very early in the season and tipping the Blues for the title following their good start to the campaign, which then followed a slight blip in Chelsea’s form.
However, Conte has turned it around by using a formation he previously used on occasion at Juventus in the 3-4-3. The formation has brought the best out of a number of players in a surprisingly way.
Of course, we all knew that Diego Costa was a fantastic striker, while Eden Hazard had the ability to win matches single-handedly. However, have we ever seen Nemanja Matic produce show such adventure in his attacking play?
Have we ever seen Victor Moses do such good impressions of a Premier League football? The answer for me is no. The latter is even playing out-of-position at right-wing back, yet Conte is somehow getting the best out of him.
Is a very underrated boss
Conte is a much-underrated boss in my opinion. The Italian is passionate about what he does and comes across as quite likeable in interviews. He gets on with his job and tends to get the best out of the players in his charge.
When Chelsea were going through a tough spell I always believed Conte had the managerial skills to find the right solution to the team’s problems. Conte did something similar at Juventus following stints at the likes of Atalanta, Bari and Siena.
Conte returned to the club where he spent much of his playing career in 2011. He quickly set about creating a formidable team. More often than not using a 3-5-2 he won three Scudetto’s and re-established the Bianconeri at the top of Italian football game.
His tactical acumen and man-management helped the Italian giants to an unbeaten league run in his debut campaign as boss. When Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge morale was at a low ebb following a poor campaign under Jose Mourinho and then Guus Hiddink.
Conte has done what he has done for most of his top level football career, he has found solutions. He may have spent money. But arguably the players that have arrived have not been Conte’s first choice.
However, new signings N’Golo Kante, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso have all enjoyed good runs of form of late. Their Italian boss deserves credit for restoring the belief in the Chelsea squad. Conte is getting the best out of some players who seemed to no longer have a future at the club.
His management even seems to have got grumpy, but brilliant Diego Costa smiling, which was something that I believed was not possible. Conte is a miracle worker just for that feat!
Chelsea are genuine title contenders
The performance against Everton underlined the fact that Chelsea have to be considered as title contenders. Not only are the Blues displaying Conte’s trademark defensive solidarity. Conte’s team are also playing with a swagger in their attacking play.
Hazard has rediscovered his best form, while Costa is back to his prolific best in front of goal. Add into the mix Pedro’s resurgence and Matic all of a sudden looking like a midfield creator and the Blues title odds of 3/1 do not look too bad.
Chelsea may not win the title this season. But they look like a completely different team to the one that struggled for any sort of form last season. The Blues are looking a very strong outfit under Conte. And the team from south-west London could really put the cat amongst the pigeons in the title race this season.
Can Chelsea win the Premier League title this season?