Chelsea’s fall from grace last year was so drastic that many thought it would take the club years to recover. But the early signs suggest that the Blues are ready to bounce back this season, and there are a number of factors in play that could see Antonio Conte’s men shoot straight back to the summit of English football in the Italian’s first season at the helm.
Chelsea have retained most of the players who stormed to win the Premier League two seasons ago. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were two of the key protagonists in that title charge, but both players suffered a severe drop in form last season. After three matches in the new campaign, though, they have already amassed 4 goals and 2 assists between them and have significantly raised their attacking output. In the 3-0 win against Burnley the Belgian had 7 efforts on goal while the Spanish striker fired 5 shots within the box. If they can maintain this kind of threat they can demolish any defence in England.
In addition to these world beaters, since the 2014/15 campaign players like César Azpilicueta and Willian have improved ten-fold, with the latter emerging as the shining star in the Blues’ torrid title defence. At the time of writing, bookmakers put the Brazilian at 33/1 to win the PFA Player of the Year Award this term. A punt would offer up delicious returns if the 28-year-old can increase his end product and build on the one goal he has claimed so far in this campaign.
Another factor that gives the London outfit the edge over their main rivals is the lack of a European tournament. Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur now have Champions League football along with Arsenal and Manchester City, and Manchester United are competing in the Europa League. With these commitments, managers must rotate and rest players to keep them fresh for the mid-week games.
A big reason why The Foxes and Chelsea won the league the last two seasons is because they both had well-settled squads that utilised the same bunch of players week in, week out. When Conte strikes on his perfect formula, injuries permitting, he will be able to stick with it for the duration of the campaign and gather some devastating momentum without having to worry about resting players.
While huge focus has been on José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola taking over at Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, Conte’s arrival at Stamford Bridge has been somewhat overshadowed. Although the Italian has never won a Champions League medal like his counterparts in the north, he did perform a miracle at Juventus, where he restored the Italian giants to the summit of Serie A and won the league three years in a row.
With the elite players at his disposal and using his tactical prowess, Conte can usurp the two “world’s best” managers and snatch the title from under their noses. Chelsea are the underdogs of the three, but should be listed as favourites.