Antonio Conte has no qualms about acknowledging his second yr at Chelsea can be “probably the most troublesome season” of his profession, and for good cause – the final two managers to win the Premier League have been fired of their comply with-up campaigns.
Jose Mourinho’s Blues famously folded in 2015-sixteen, paving the best way for Claudio Ranieri to orchestrate a miraculous triumph with Leicester Metropolis. Mourinho was let go halfway by way of that season, and Ranieri was sacked the next yr. Each did not cope with the added pressures and competitions that go together with being topped league champion.
Certainly, Conte’s success final season might have come partially from a singular concentrate on profitable the league. It raises the query: Can Chelsea grow to be the primary membership to defend its title since Manchester United gained the final of three league crowns on the bounce in 2009?
Extra focus, extra battle
One benefit Conte has over Mourinho this time round is the very fact a lot of his workforce has already taken the lumps of failing to adequately defend its title. As such, gamers like Eden Hazard ought to work more durable to keep away from the poor type they handled two years in the past. Alvaro Morata‘s scoring fee offsets Diego Costa‘s imminent departure, and if there are any indicators of a scarcity of want or dedication in coaching, Conte’s sharp tongue ought to care for that matter. However shouting alone will not work.
As an alternative, Conte will look to maintain his staff targeted by introducing new concepts, maybe persevering with to construct on the work he tried to implement on the prime of his debut season. The change to three-four-three labored final yr, and kicked off a fad throughout England, however this yr, Conte’s remaining setup won’t look precisely the identical. There have been indicators of a shift late final season as Cesc Fabregas made his method again into the beginning lineup. Conte may flip the tactical script as soon as extra with a 4-man backline and a give attention to controlling possession in midfield.
Whether or not three or 4 on the again, it is clear Conte’s work is not accomplished at Chelsea.
Squad too skinny to outlive
In the mean time, Chelsea is not as nicely-rounded as Conte would really like. If he sticks with a three-four-three, he’ll want a further centre-again and 4 central midfielders, wingers, and wing-backs. Sadly, the squad is a minimum of one participant brief in every spot, as this summer time’s signings served solely to exchange key departures.
Nemanja Matic‘s sale to United was offset by the signing of Tiemoue Bakayoko; central defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen step in, with John Terry gone for good and Kurt Zouma out on mortgage; Willy Caballero replaces Asmir Begovic; Morata begins up prime as Costa appears to drive an eventual transfer to Atletico Madrid.
The Spanish striker, Chelsea’s largest signing of the summer time, will want time to adapt, as will the remainder of his new teammates.
As issues stand, accidents threaten to put break to Conte’s workforce and he’ll doubtless discover himself brief-handed. Merely put, there’s not sufficient depth in Chelsea’s squad to outlive each home and continental competitors. Conte has made his want on this division clear – he needs a number of extra gamers this summer time. The Blues needed Alex Sandro and Danilo, however Juventus appears hellbent on protecting the previous, whereas the latter opted for Manchester Metropolis; they’re now linked with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Serge Aurier, Antonio Candreva, and Danny Drinkwater.
Mourinho and Ranieri stored modifications to a minimal of their comply with-up seasons however Conte is tough at work as he appears to make the required changes.
Which will assist forestall one other tenth-positioned end, however is it sufficient to win the title?
Assessing the competitors
The brief reply is not any. The lengthy reply is that Chelsea is not at some extent to adequately problem Manchester United and Manchester Metropolis for the title whereas additionally balancing the trials and tribulations of the Champions League.
Metropolis addressed its obvious weaknesses in signing full-backs Benjamin Mendy, Danilo, and Kyle Walker and bringing in goalkeeper Ederson, all whereas including the gifted Bernardo Silva to Pep Guardiola’s ranks. In the meantime, the Pink Devils have a brand new star man up prime in Romelu Lukaku – however maybe extra importantly, the workforce now boasts a midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, and Matic. Each groups have expertise balancing a troublesome schedule, and adequately addressed areas of want this summer time.
Whereas a prime-4 Chelsea end is definitely possible, it appears unlikely that the Blues can compete with Manchester Metropolis’s unimaginable depth or Mourinho’s momentum. Save for an early exit from European competitors, Chelsea’s present ranks would wish to stay in good well being simply to outlive the season. Extra gamers would assist Conte’s trigger, although, and an in-type Morata would not harm, both.
(Photographs courtesy: Motion Photographs)