Saturday, June 24, 2017

Could Chelsea’s Conte be set to switch formations?

David Nugent in Editorial, English Premier League 7 Sep 2016

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The return of David Luiz to Chelsea gives Blues boss Antonio Conte more tactical flexiblility

The return of David Luiz to Chelsea gives Blues boss Antonio Conte more tactical flexibility

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte left it late to act in the transfer market this summer.

The Italian boss had brought in French defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante and striker Michy Batshuayi relatively early to strengthen his squad.

However, the former Juventus boss completed two deals on deadline day that suggest there could be a change of tactics in the offering for the Blues in the coming months.

The new arrivals were surprisingly Brazilian David Luiz returning and former Bolton loanee Marcos Alonso joining from Fiorentina.

Both players are defenders (well arguably in Luiz’s case) and those signing could be the key to Conte’s tactics for the rest of the season.

Finally brought in some defenders

Prior to signing Luiz and Alonso, the Blues were not blessed with the greatest strength-in-depth at the back. Conte had been linked with moves for a number of defenders but was frustrated in his search to strengthen his backline.

Luiz and Alonso may not have been the Italian’s first choice signing, but the former Azzurri boss’ judgement has to be trusted because he had a very good track record at Juventus when it came to keeping clean sheets.

The Bianconeri managed more clean sheets than a Chinese laundry during Conte’s time in Turin, so he knows a good defender when he sees one. Hopefully, he can turn Luiz into a good defender because at times he has been a liability at centre-back.

Change to his preferred formation

For much of his time as Juve and Italy boss, Conte played with three backs and wing-backs. The system worked supremely well for the fiery boss. Tactically he seems like a boss that is not stuck on a certain formation, but more often than not he has returned to that system.

The signings of Luiz and Alonso now makes that system possible. Alonso would be perfect to fill the left wing-back spot, with Cesar Azpilicueta switching back to the right to fill the right wing-back position.

Luiz would then fit in alongside John Terry and Gary Cahill in the centre of defence. With Kante sitting in front Luiz’s marauding runs would be well covered.

The Blues could take advantage of the system by fielding young Belgium international striker Michy Batshuayi up front alongside Mr Happy Diego Costa. Batshuayi has looked lively coming off the bench and in the League Cup. He has also combined well with Costa. The partnership may well prove to be prolific.

Conte did not have the players to fit the system previously, but he does seem to now and that could see a very evident switching in tactics for the Blues. The Italian will no doubt now feel he has the option to switch to his preferred system, even if he does not necessarily decide to do it straight away this weekend at Swansea.

Chelsea building up quietly

While Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola fight it out in Manchester it seems that Chelsea’s decent start to the campaign has gone slightly under the radar.

The Blues were always going to be a strong team with the wily Conte in the dugout, but at odds of 9/2 to win the Premier League title this season they do not seem a bad bet. It is very early in the season and there is a long way to go, but under Conte, the Blues will only start to improve.

The Italian has stated he wants to improve the fitness of his players and also their understanding of his tactical approach. If the first few Premier League games of the season were Chelsea unfit and not accustomed to Conte’s tactics then heaven help the league when he the Italian has been at the club for a longer period.

I have always admired Conte as a boss, he seems to live and breathe football. The 47-year-old created something special at Juventus by helping resurrect the Italian giants.

Conte arrived at Chelsea with the players having downed tools for Mourinho, prior to Guus Hiddink’s lukewarm spell as caretaker boss. However, people forget that just last year the Blues were crowned champions of England.

The current Chelsea squad are not the poor shower that they looked like last season. There is quality there and they now have a boss who is capable of getting the best from them.

The Chelsea boss will now be far happier with his tactical options and with three wins from three games he will be satisfied with the start he has made at the club.

However, there is a sense that there is so much more to come from the current group of Chelsea players under Conte and the change in formation may just get the best out of the Blues players.

Will Antonio Conte switch to three centre-backs for the trip to Swansea?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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