It was not long back that Antonio Conte’s Chelsea suffered a disastrous 3-0 defeat against London rivals Arsenal FC at the Emirates Stadium in September. Fast forward to November, with five wins, 16 goals scored, none conceded the Blues find themselves sitting in the second position of the league table with 25 points on the board.
The landscape at West London has definitely changed once again; Chelsea’s Italian manager Antonio Conte has put Chelsea right back into the race for the Premier League trophy and with some certain assets The Blues are definitely looking like title challengers.
Let us take a look at five main reasons behind this change.
A change in formation by Conte:
The former Juventus manager has switched from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3 after the 3-0 defeat at Emirates. The system definitely works in favor of the Italian as he won numerous trophies with former team Juventus with the same system of play. This new style of play has favoured Chelsea FC as well; The Blues have won five matches in a row with comprehensive wins over defending champions Leicester City, a thumping 4-0 win over arch rivals Manchester United and a recent 5-0 demolition of Everton FC this week. With John Terry sidelined with an injury, defensively Conte has preferred the trio of Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta at the back with added protection from Nemanja Matic and new signing N’Golo Kante from the defensive midfield position.
Hazard and Costa back to their best:
The talented midfielder has been the biggest beneficiary from this change of formation. Hazard has scored a total of 7 goals in 11 league appearances this season. As per Squawka the Belgian has stats of 63% Shot accuracy, a total of 20 chances created, 85% average pass accuracy. Hazard received the man of the match award for the second week in a row after his brilliant performance against Everton. He has combined well with Spaniard Diego Costa, who himself is coming back to his very best. Costa is another top player who failed to replicate his 2014/15 form last season under Jose Mourinho, but under Conte the striker is back to his best as well with 9 goals from 11 appearances and is the current Premier League top scorer.
No continental competition:
The Blues also have the advantage of no European football this season. Finishing 10th last season did give Chelsea a few positives after all. With no European duties the Blues can solely focus on the Premier League. The new style of play demands high intensity football and it gives Chelsea an advantage to focus on the league with no Champions League or Europa League football this season and gives manager Antonio Conte to spend more time with his players on the training ground.
The Blues have a pretty well bench strength as well, with the addition of full back Marcos Alonso who scored for the first time for Chelsea last week in the team’s 5-0 win over Everton. Chelsea also have plenty of talent in attack in the form of Belgian Mitchy Batshuayi and Pedro and veteran Spanish midfielder, Cesc Fabregas. Between the sticks, they also have the talented Asmir Begovic as a back up to the team’s Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Upcoming set of fixtures:
Chelsea will play Middlesbrough next who are in 15th position currently so it will be an easy trip to the Riverside stadium for Conte’s men. Next up will be two tough matches against Tottenham Hotspurs and a showdown clash against Manchester City on 3rd December.
The Blues must remain consistent in these tough fixtures, the Manchester City match is definitely going to be Chelsea’s toughest challenge this season. The Sky Blues have recently beaten FC Barcelona 3-1 and will be feeling confident heading into this fixture. Chelsea will end the year with rather easy set of matches when they play the likes of West Brom, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Stoke City on the last day of the year. Conte’s men must try and gain maximum from these matches and must end the year in a positive note in order to lift the Premier League trophy this season.
The boss will surely be looking forward to a brilliant season ahead. He commented after the Everton win, “It’s important to put these great players in the best situation to exploit their talent. And today there was a great atmosphere with our supporters. Tonight you can see we are top – but on Sunday it can change. But it’s not important; it’s important to win, to continue to improve.”
Photo by Aleksandr Osipov