Last season Chelsea were the laughing stock of the Premier League, the Champions were no longer playing for then manager Jose Mourinho, the fans were turning on their star players and Chelsea had spiralled down the league. The players got their wish and Jose Mourinho was fired from the West London club.
Any new manager would have his work cut out to fix the mess that was Chelsea football club. Roman Abramovich turned his attentions to Italian Antonio Conte and now football fans up and down the country are back Chelsea to win the title just as a horse racing fan would use Cheltenham day 1 tips.
It is difficult to see anything other than the West London outfit winning the title in May so the question is, what has Conte done that has been so positive this season?
There in no room for sentiment when it comes to Conte. John Terry for example is a Chelsea legend but that is not enough to get a place in the managers team. The creative passing of former Arsenal and Barcelona Cesc Fabregas was key to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea when they won the league a few seasons ago but he is clearly not Conte’s cup of tea and the Spaniard has had to make do with a bit part role in the squad.
Things may well be plain sailing for Chelsea at the moment but it was certainly not the case at the start of the season. Conte struggled to get the best out of his men in August and September but a 3-0 thumping by rivals Arsenal forced Conte into a change, a change that he has not looked back on. Switching to a 3-5-2 has seen the team go from strength to strength.
As we know, English fans respond to passion like no other and the Italian has plenty of that from the sidelines. His fan like celebrations has gone down well with the Chelsea faithful, even if a certain Jose didn’t enjoy it too well.
The Chelsea boss is well respected amoungst his peers in the game. Pep Guardiola had some nice words to say about the Italian when they met earlier this season.
“Conte is without doubt one of the best, maybe the best, coach in the world right now. [Chelsea] were contenders to win the Premier League from the beginning,” Guardiola said.
“Now, maybe more than before. It’s a good test for us; it is the first time we are going to face each other. It’s good to play against him.
“He did an exceptional job in Turin [with Juventus] and in the national team job. It doesn’t matter if it is Serie A or the national team, you realise his strengths.
“He has started with maybe not good results, but they have won their last seven games, conceding one goal. That says a lot about how good they are.”
Next season Chelsea will have to add Champions League football to their work load barring a spectacular collapse so we will see how he handles that but judging on his first season, it’s fair to say he will more than likely take it all in his stride.