Chelsea and manager Antonio Conte currently sit first in the Premier League table, eight points clear of second-place Manchester City. After a disastrous campaign a year ago, the Blues are poised to reclaim the English top flight this season thanks to a remarkable turnaround.
Chelsea has posted a record of 19-3-3 through 25 matches, along with an astonishing +34 goal differential. Not only is the club’s attack in great form, but their defensive structure has been solid.
Last season under Jose Mourinho brought about a team in turmoil, as it seemed personal issues and problems simply became too much for all involved. Italian tactician Antonio Conte took over after leading Italy at Euro 2016 and has brought new life to several players in the Chelsea line-up.
Striker Diego Costa is third on the Premier League scoring list this season with 15 goals, while Eden Hazard has returned to his spectacular best with ten goals and three assists.
Falling 2-0 to Tottenham in early January is Chelsea’s only loss in their last 19 Premier League matches.
We review the areas that have helped the club to achieve such great success this season.
The 3-4-3 formation
Four defenders are almost mandatory in the English first division, as the pace of the Premier League can see a three-man backline put under intense pressure. However, Antonio Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation this year with Chelsea has been nothing short of genius.
Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, and Gary Cahill have been outstanding in front of Belgian international goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Chelsea produced six consecutive Premier League clean sheets between October and November of 2016.
The attack has flourished as well, as the club’s front-line has often been able to completely overwhelm the opposition moving into the final third.
Stellar midfield play
The true strength of Conte’s formation is found in Chelsea’s incredibly talented midfield. The work that has been put in brings positive effects at both ends of the field.
N’Golo Kante’s arrival from Leicester City this summer has been extremely influential, as he continues to make a case for being the best defensive midfielder in Europe. Victor Moses has been excellent out wide, while both Nemanja Matic and Marcos Alonso have displayed strong positioning and quality on the ball.
Kante’s ability to cover so much space at the back allows the rest of the squad to perform at the highest of levels.
While it is certainly not something they want each and every season, Chelsea’s lack of participation in Europe has helped them climb back up to the top of the Premier League.
Their disappointing tenth-place league finish last year ensured that they would not be taking part in the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League. Without mid-week fixtures exhausting his squad, Conte has been able to keep a consistent and rested line-up.
Opposition like Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United all take part in their own European matches this week.
Chelsea may have struggled as Premier League title-holders during the last campaign, but there are certainly few reasons to think that they will not return to the top spot now in 2016-17.