After a slow start to the season, Chelsea are once again looking like they are back to their best. Solid in defense, and dangerous going forward, Chelsea are once again contenders for the title. With all their rivals slowing down, Chelsea could well be the dark horse in this year’s competition.
Under Antonio Conte, Chelsea have got their groove back and in typical Italian fashion, Conte has managed to assemble the best defense in the country at the moment. With new recruits David Luiz, N’Golo Kante and Marcos Alonso all exceeding expectations, it’s no surprise that the Blues fans have taken their new coach to heart. Using a sight variation of his trademark 3-5-2 system, the 3-4-3 formation has breathed new life into the team. Diego Costa has been banging goals for fun this term, contributing in almost every game. Pedro and Willian have also been good on the right wing, scoring important goals and providing timely assists.
But it is the 2014-15 Player of the Year, Eden Hazard, who has been the main difference. After disappearing last year for some reason, he has bounced back and is looks to be back to his best. Playing with added freedom, Hazard has been a constant menace and looks like scoring everytime he gets the ball. His dribbling and speed are back to his high standards, and his teammates are creating and finishing enough for his exploits to bear fruit. Hazard’s ability to squeeze through the tightest of spaces, and dribble past 3-4 defenders remains intact, and he is just a handful of players in the world who can do it with such regularity. With Costa in great form, he now has a good outlet for his passes. Conte has afforded him total freedom on the offensive end, and Hazard has not disappointed.
The two wing backs Marcos Alonso and the resurgent Victor Moses also deserve a mention here. The duo have controlled the touchlines, running tirelessly down the flanks and have been solid at the defensive end and looked threatening in attack. Moses in particular has been amongst the goals lately, and it looks like he has found a second wind at right back, much like Antonio Valencia for Man United. N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic have been terrific in the midfield. Matic has been playing the more attacking role, creating a few chances every game, where as Kante is doing what he does best, breaking opposition attacks and running box to box. With the team doing so well, talents such as Cesc Fabregas and Oscar have found it very hard to break into the side. At the start of the season, it was expected that Fabregas and Oscar will be starters, but things look very different a couple of months in.
And finally, the defense. Assured, calm and steady is how the back line can be described. Ably protected by the likes of Kante and Matic, the back three of Cesar Azipilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill have kept 4 clean sheets in a row now for the Blues. Questions were asked of the error prone David Luiz in the beginning of the season, but he has answered those critics with emphatic performances. In his second stint with the club, Luiz is more experienced now and has become the leader of the back line in John Terry’s absence. He has marshaled the troops very well and is their most prized asset at the back along with Azipilicueta. Azipilicueta has always been consistent and this year has been no different, as he has been their most consistent player once again. Good with or without the ball, good positional sense and a textbook tackling technique, Azipilicueta has cemented his place as one of the best full backs in the game right now.
As for Cahill, doubts still hang over his long term prospect, with John Terry nearing full fitness. Cahill has the talent and the potential, but he somehow seems to get lost in certain moments and this has to be addressed soon otherwise the big teams will take advantage of it. Thibaut Courtois has not had much to do in recent times, and although he is a good shot stopper, he still needs to do more to justify his place in the side. He has not developed as was expected of him and when you look at David De Gea, Courtois has a long way to go still. His leadership qualities and ability to take over games and command his troops is lacking, and if he has to take the next step, these traits are absolutely essential.
Chelsea are looking good this term and with all teams fast improving, it promises to be a great season ahead, one that will not end in disappointment for the Blues!