Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal became the turning point for the Blues season this year as the Stamford Bridge outfit has since been revolutionary.
New boss Antonio Conte introduced a new tactical system which has enthralled Chelsea on a path upwards.
It all started during half-time against Arsenal in that game, when the players first saw the dark side of Conte.
He was very critical of his sides performance even after the game ended.
“Bad game,’ he whispered. ‘We didn’t have the right attitude. We must look in our own house for the problem.”
Since then the Chelsea manager has installed his own tactics and training methods at the club and they have done wonders.
It was time that the smiling Italian turned into ‘Don Conte’, and boy did it work.
Conte had decided then and there, that if things were to go wrong and downhill – it will be on his terms. He met Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for lunch and the stage was set for the Italian to play his game.
The biggest change being switching Chelsea to a back 3, one of Conte’s favourite formation – the 3 man defence has proved highly successful for the former Juventus boss.
“You can recognize my team,” said Conte, after his fourth consecutive win before thrashing Everton 5-0. “More pressure, we stay short, we come back, we work.”
Like they say fortune favours the brave, injuries to Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas allowed the 47-year-old to play with team selection and it completely changed how Chelsea played.
Conte was sure that Gary Cahill and Ivanovic could not play together on the right side of his back-four, while he also knew that neither Fabregas nor John Obi Mikel could work as hard as he expects from his central midfielders.
However, not everything went well for Conte, Oscar and Willian left on compassionate leaves – leaving Conte high and dry, with the Italian left with a struggling Pedro.
Pedro’s introduction helped Hazard play freely – with the two pacy wingers rocking both the flanks, both playing with the added pressure of tracking back.
“I must focus on my offensive role, the wing-backs do the defensive work, that’s the major change.” Hazard said while on international duty with Belgium.
Hazard has been phenomenal, scoring five goals in the last 5 games, he is playing as an inside left-forward.
Something which made Belgium boss Roberto Martinez joke “Chelsea will claim we followed them.”
Costa and Hazard have been revolutionary this season having scored 16 games between them in 11 games this season, the same as they scored in the entirity of last season.
Especially Costa looks like a completely different player, his positioning, hunger for goals and most importantly him not getting involved in unnecessary drama.
However, it is the Blues midfield that has allowed for the front three to play their game freely.
The selfless and tireless work of Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso and Nemanja Matic has worked wonders as the quartet have not only covered the front three but have also been instrumental in creating ample amount of chances.
Nemanja Matic has improved a lot from last season, specially in the new formation – giving Kante the freedom to play like he did with Leicester City last season.
When Chelsea re-signed David Luiz, a lot was said and the Blues were mocked, claiming it was a mistake – but the Brazil international has been nothing short of spectacular, while Cesar Azpilicueta has found the perfect position as the tireless defender is once again a standout performer for the Blues.
The Italian has completely overhauled how the machinery worked at Stamford Bridge, leading every training session personally.
Although, the absence of European football has helped him focus on a single objective.
Any player, who is found out-of-position is then made to watch the video footage and made to understand Conte’s point-of-view.
Chelsea’s IT team has been working day-in and day-out, as the boss is always asking for footage to crack new ideas and formations.
Arsenal defeat also made Conte revisit his pre-season policy, splitting the squad in two.
While he leads one group outside in training, fitness coaches Paolo Bertelli, Julio Tous and Constantino Coratti make sure the other group is working hard in the gym.
The Italian has claimed that he would rather be playing European football, but the lack of continental distraction has allowed him to create the perfect atmosphere at the club – preparing the team for the next big challenge.The Chelsea players say that Conte has restored the “winning mentality” at the club, and the fact that he himself played at the highest level with the best of players helps him command much-deserved respect from his squad when he demands the extra effort from them.
Conte understands that he is not dealing with school kids, so he does not treat them like one.
Unlike, Jose Mourinho – the Italian also keeps distance from using texts and calls to motivate players, the 47-year-old is direct in his approach with the players.
The former Azzurri boss also understands the importance of egos in the dressing room, as was evident with his late introduction of John Terry in the Everton game.
The Chelsea captain lost his first-team place due to injury but Conte has maintained the 35-year-old is in his plans – as he knows Terry will be needed at some point during the course of the season.
The Chelsea hierarchy is also happy seeing youth players like Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ola Aina getting first-team action.
Conte also won over the players when he allowed Willian and Oscar to leave for family reasons.
His backroom staff have also received praise from players for not getting over involved in players like.
Although everything has fallen into place for Conte but the team is hanging on a thin line, and any injury to key players could prove disastrous at this point of time.
The Italian is desperate to add a central midfielder to ease the work-load of Matic and Kante.
Thibaut Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Kante, Matic, Hazard and Costa have played every single game, while David Luiz has also been regular ever since his introduction in the first-team.
The only change in the last five games has been Pedro for Willian.
The Contelution has just begun if the last five games are to be seen, the Blues now gear up to face Middlesbrough on Sunday wit five clean sheets and five wins in a row backing them.
Things look smooth at the Stamford Bridge, but only time will tell how long this momentum will last, or can Chelsea go all the way and help the supporters forget the woes of last season.