So Antonio Conte is the (current) darling of Chelsea Football Club, loved by their fans after an outstanding debut season at Stamford Bridge, one which made the previous, extremely forgettable campaign feel like it was all just a very bad nightmare that never really happened. His side won the Premier League with the most victories in history (30) and were deserved winners of the title, 7 points clear of their nearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur. He even nearly managed to win the FA Cup, alas he could not match his fellow Italian Carlo Ancelotti, who won the double in his first season as Chelsea lost 2-1 to Arsenal in the final.
SEASON FROM THE GODS
Despite an outstanding first season, there are still questions to answer. After a 3-0 away defeat to the Gunners last September , the Italian reverted to type with a 3-4-3 system, which took straight away and heralded 13 straight league victories and transformed his underperformers into a crack outfit. They defended superbly, David Luiz was an inspired buy complementing, defensive midfield dynamo Ngolo Kante superbly. They were also clinical in attack with their wing backs Victor Moses and Marcus Alonso freed up because of the tactics to cause all sorts of damage further up the pitch and with players like Costa and Hazard up top, there was only going to be one result, win, win and win again. This was the basis for their, in the end, stroll to the title. However he did have time each week to drill his team to his methods, as he had no European distractions and an October League Cup defeat to West Ham actually proved beneficial in that respect.
Conte is a man of detail and it would have not been lost on him that his squad needed beefing up for this coming season as playing one game a week for the majority of it was not going happen, not least with their return to the Champions League. However their transfer dealings have been strange to say the least. They have spent around 130 million pounds, on Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger as well as bringing in Willy Caballero on a free. The problem however is they have let a lot of players go, the latest being Nemanja Matic to Manchester United and this leaves their squad pretty bare at the moment especially in the central midfield area. As we stand they would probably be able to cope, injuries permitting, but Conte knows that come September when the midweek games in cup competitions start they will struggle and reinforcements are needed and quickly come the end of the transfer window on the 31st August.
FLASH BANG WALLOP GOODBYE?
The question mark on any manager (and their team) is whether they can prove they are not just one season wonders. To be fair to Conte, he is clearly a winner, he has proven this with multiple trophies and titles at Juventus prior to his stint at Chelsea, even with the Italian National team, expert eyes will tell you he overachieved with an average squad. However people do tend to remember what you did in your last job and he is now going into a massive season even with his stock so high. If he fails he will be seen as a flash in the pan who had arguably Chelsea’s easiest season, in regards of matches, for a long time. With the Champions League already an extra tournament, Conte needs to show he can juggle a number of competitions and increased matches to show he can still win trophies when the pressure on his squad is much higher. The greatest managers in football perform season after season, the spotlight is now on the Italian to show he can still do this, especially as in owner Roman Abramovich he has a boss who is not scared of making a change if things are not going as he wants, watch this space I say.
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