After Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003, Chelsea have been on a roll in the Premier League. Five Premier League titles since have seen them become one of the most popular English clubs in the world.
Last season saw them lift the Premier League title with 96 points, 30 wins, 5 losses, and 3 draws. But it’s the manner in which they did it that speaks volumes about the coaching ability of Antonio Conte.
When any team wins laurels, one thing observable in the squad is team spirit, rhythm, unity, and motivation. These were pretty high at Chelsea last season.
For the average football fan, the possibility of Chelsea once again winning the title again is not a fantasy. Yes, yes, I agree Chelsea had a bad start to the new season – They lost their first match 2-3 to Burnley and scraped a win against Spurs at Wembley but you can’t write them off based on a couple of bad performances. Moreover, they’ve shown last season what happens when you criticize them for a couple of stony-broke games in the start, by bouncing back in form and lifting the EPL title.
All views aside, the 2017/2018 Premier League has officially kicked off, here are 5 reasons why the Blues will successfully defend their title.
1 Momentum from the previous season
The form that propelled Chelsea to the summit can play a part in this season’s campaign. After last season’s exploits, all the players would be highly motivated and energised for the new season and would be gunning to give their best for the club.
The team chemistry is really strong and the club have made sure that new signings do not disturb this aspect. Nothing significant has changed in the squad from the previous season and if they keep the mentality up, they could go all the way again.
2 World class signings
Typically, new signings are made are to supplement a thin squad, freshen an ageing squad, replace ineffective players, balance an already steady squad, and to make a statement. In the case of Chelsea, it’s all of the above.
World class and quality new signings could act as catalysts to propel the club to greater heights, and all of Chelsea’s business in the recent summer transfer window so far can be classified as world class.
Free scoring and highly-rated striker Alvaro Morata, who scored and assisted once in their recent Burnley loss, was signed from Real Madrid for £70 million to replace the departing Diego Costa. Multi-talented and versatile midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, was signed to fill the role of the departed Matic and he did just that in their recent victory against Tottenham.
Willy Caballero was signed on a free to provide back-up for first choice custodian Thibaut Courtois after Asmir Begovic left the club for greener pastures. Tough tackling defender Antonio Rudiger was signed from Roma to fill John Terry’s shoes and he proved to be a bright spark in their recent EPL games.
On a critical note, the squad had reduced in size in the latest window with many players like John Terry, Nemanja Matic leaving the club so their recent spending is justified.
But to summarise it, all these transfers, who have the potential to become world beaters, make it hard to not imagine Chelsea putting up a fight for the title this season.
3 Well-balanced team
Chelsea’s title success last season can partly be attributed to the balanced squad that manager Antonio Conte had. After several tactical changes in formations and positions, Conte assigned every player with a role. This worked wonders as the players knew the aspects of their game they had to concentrate on.
Conte’s 3-4-3 formation saw each position being filled out by the best players in the squad. There was stiff competition for almost all positions, which kept the first choice players on their heels and made them produce great performances to retain their spots.
The Italian also had a plethora of players with different playing styles to choose from depending on his needs. Though they have lost the experience of Terry, Matic and most likely Costa, they have signed like for like replacements who are coming off good seasons with their former clubs.
The new signings will positively affect the balance of the team as they were mostly signed as replacements for departing players, thus keeping the competition for positions the same.
4 Grinding out results
Make what you want of that quote, but you can’t deny the fact that it speaks the hard truth. In the modern age of football, people become fans of teams who play beautiful football, regardless if they produce results or not.
They fall into the illusion of those quick passes, intelligent movements, and clever tricks, ignoring the fact that their team is not producing wins or obtaining titles. This argument can be applied contrarily too, as winning by playing dull and boring football will hardly appeal any fans. What’s appreciated is a little bit of both, playing fast and interesting football that is actually effective in producing results.
Chelsea, last season, were the personification of this. Their brand of fast and incisive football was lethal in attack, sturdy in defence, and flamboyant in passing, while also being easy on the eyes and producing required results. They were like a lion when its stalking its prey, crouching while their opponents were probing their rock-hard defence and pouncing with fast passes and incisive counter attacks when they got the ball back.
For stat lovers: Chelsea won 30 out of their 38 games in the EPL last season – giving them a spectacular win percentage of 78.94%. The reason for obtaining results like these is that Manager Conte oriented his 3-4-3 system in such a way that there are always seven players either attacking or defending during the match. Though this process required high work rate, it created more chances up front and made sure that defence was not isolated and thereby, not exploited.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Chelsea don’t look to be in good form as seen by their results after the start of the new season. But if they manage to revive and maintain this this effectual and lethal style of play from last season, which they most likely will, expect them to replicate last season’s success and give the other clubs a run for their money.
5 Antonio Conte’s charm
Every successful team has a great manager pulling the strings from behind. The players can only do so much and it’s the responsibility of the manager to utilise the players in the best way. Italian tactician Antonio Conte is the embodiment of that stereotypical managerial role right now.
Signed in April 2016 for three years, Conte played an important role in propelling Chelsea to the title in his first season itself.
The Italian is a demanding and authoritarian presence in the dressing room. He commands much respect from all the players wherever he goes. Considered by many to be more of a tactician like Jose Mourinho than a player manager, He has a wealth of experience managing many clubs and his country’s national team also. He’s also one of the more animated managers on the touchline when his team is playing.
After a dismal and disappointing 2015/2016 season, in which the club finished a lowly tenth place, many didn’t consider Chelsea for the title. The entire team’s spirit, chemistry and unity was lacking after they achieved the second lowest Premier League finish in their History. Jose Mourinho was sacked and replaced by Conte to make things better.
After what was a promising start to the new season, the Stamford Bridge outfit started free falling in terms of results and form. Losses to Liverpool and Arsenal meant the club needed some change, and fast. All this persuaded Antonio Conte switch from the club’s usual 4-2-3-1 to his familiar 3-4-3 in a desperate bid to obtain results. The formation was a first in the PL as none of the other clubs risked playing a three man defence due to the intensity of the league.
But Chelsea discovered a rhythm and rhyme under the new formation and what ensured was a thirteen match winning streak that marked the beginning of their march to the title. The team sustained this form for the entire season and managed to steer back on track whenever there were few disurbances. This masterclass move by Conte eventually culminated in them lifting the Premier League title.
Whenever Chelsea were losing, Conte made some or the other tactical or managerial changes to get the club back winning. Looking at the club’s recent form after last season, where it suffered multiple losses – some of which are to Arsenal in the FA cup final and the Community Shield, Inter Milan in pre-season and Burnley in the new season, it’s hard to not see a pattern emerging. Omens are no coincidence and expect Conte to work his charm and get his team into full flow and form for the new season.