Chelsea have finally managed to shake off last season’s misery as new boss Antonio Conte has completely turned them around in spite of the initial struggles. The Blues have won five consecutive Premier League games and are now back in title hunt once again with 25 points after the completion of game week 11. They are only one point behind league leaders, Liverpool.
Credit should go to former Azzurri and Juventus boss who has brought the confidence back among his men and strengthened the Blues’ backline with limited resources. Veterans like John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic have passed their prime and were leaking too many goals that made Chelsea look vulnerable defensively. Conte, who initially started his Premier League venture with back four formation, shifted to his trademark three-man defence (what made him successful during his tenure with Juventus) since back to back defeats against Liverpool and bitter rivals Arsenal.
Surprisingly, this tactical reconciliation worked seamlessly and Chelsea are not only yet to lose a Premier League game since then, but also yet to concede a single goal scoring. In the process of doing so, they have become a more potent outfit going forward as well, scoring 16 goals since the tactical adjustment.
Conte, however, had to take a few bold steps in order to restore the lost pride of the 2014-15 Premier league Champions. Ivanovic, whose performances degraded significantly since the title-winning season, was finally dropped along with skipper John Terry. He shifted fullback Cesar Azpilicueta as right centre-back keeping Gary Cahill in the left-hand side and risked ‘mad man’ David Luiz in the middle of his three-man backline. But the risk was worth it as the Brazilian has proved his doubters wrong in this new role. He is performing consistently with greater responsibility and has been less error-prone compared to his previous spell with the Blues.
Conte’s 3-4-3 has two more key men who are providing enough defensive cover through the wings and working as full-backs when required. One of them is the new signing Marcos Alonso who has previous experience in English football with Bolton and Sunderland. The 25-year-old former Fiorentina left-back has adopted well in the left wing-back role and is equally good going forward as well as closing down the vertical channels while defending. But the biggest surprise might be Victor Moses who is playing the pivotal role in Conte’s revolution.
The 25-year-old Nigerian international was bought in summer of 2012 but spent most his time on loan with several Premier league outfits (Liverpool, Stoke City, West Ham United) after being largely overlooked by former Chelsea managers. He was set to be loaned again or sold permanently before he caught the attention of the new boss after impressing him during the Blues’ preseason campaign. Despite being a winger, Moses is now being used as a right wing-back and has become a regular starter under Conte with his tenacious performances.
The introduction of a two-man pivot in Matic and Kante has helped Luiz’s cause. The two defensive midfielders have provided good support and are known for their positioning and passing, something that you need when you are playing a defensive setup. With Luiz unafraid to make the forward forays, Matic usually drops behind to act as a cover.
The back three has already been practised in Premier League, most recently by former Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal and previous Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Both of them had initial success but failed big time to find out any persistent solution which cost their jobs.
Conte, known as a tactical mastermind in his country, is well aware of the quality and competitiveness of the top-tier of English football and will try every possible aspect to retain his back-three formation with a certain David Luiz in the heart of defence which has helped him and his men to rediscover a vicious Chelsea side with more attacking mindset, intent and commitment.
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