As I walk down Wembley Way, breathing in the atmosphere, feeling the butterflies clench up in my stomach, I was in no doubt that the Premier League season was well and truly back. A 15-minute walk from the tube station to my seats, I could sense that even this early on, the result could be huge looking back come what May.
When the team news arrived, I can’t lie, I was confused. Was it the standard 3-4-3 with Victor Moses playing as the second-wide man, or was Antonio Conte being mischievous and planning something unexpected? When Anthony Taylor blew his whistle to kick off proceedings, it was clear Operation Conte had well and truly been deployed.
Yesterdays 2-1 victory against Spurs felt reminiscent to the day when Jose Mourinho went to Anfield and won 2-0. It was evident Chelsea were set up to not concede and, where possible create chances on the counter attack. The genius of Conte’s tactics came in playing 3 central midfielders with Kante, Luiz and Bakayoko all sitting deep to prevent the likes of Wanyama and Dembele from running the midfield, just as they did when we were defeated at White Hart Lane last season.
Antonio Conte took a massive risk yesterday changing from what he knew. But it was clear to see that his tactical shake up left Spurs stumped for much of the game. He is a man who uses his resources in the most efficient way, getting the best out of every player in every position. The man who won against the odds last season is doing the same again this season. He had no right to spoil Tottenham’s party, but he went and did it with a tactical masterstroke.
Although Marcos Alonso won man of the match, whilst watching the game live yesterday it was evident that Chelsea had 7 or 8 match-winning or match-saving players on the pitch yesterday evening. Tiemoue Bakayoko, who has only recently undergone surgery and missed out on a full pre-season came in to the side and immediately looked at home. The scary thing for our rivals is the fact this is his first game in the Premier League, he was only 70% match-fit and has only been under the guidance of Mr. Conte for just over a month. He has certainly wetted taste buds and make no mistake about it, this player is going right to the very top.
Andreas Christensen, a player whom many of the media have continued to link with a move away from Stamford Bridge. At only 21 years of age, it looks as if a John Terry replacement is already here. My final mentions go to N’Golo Kante and David Luiz. Luiz sat deep in the midfield, disrupting Delle Ali and Christian Eriksen’s runs between the lines, breaking up the play whenever he could. Playing David Luiz in central midfield allowed Ngolo Kante to have that little bit of extra freedom that certainly benefited for the blues going forward.
The spirited performance from the blues yesterday goes a long way for many reasons. Firstly, this should make the general media a little more reluctant before putting pen to paper in the future. Make no mistake, if we lost or even drew yesterday, the media would have been writing about Antonio Conte’s anger with the board and a supposed “fall out” with his players. The headlines would have read “Conte considers leaving” and the over-reaction would have been ridiculous. Chelsea refused to give the press that fuel to add to the fire, which could prove decisive in keeping our dressing room together and firmly united. Instead, the 2-1 victory has extinguished most of the so called “fire”.
We all know what the media would love to see. Come May, all anybody wants to see is a Mourinho vs Guardiola head to head title battle. Since the BBC moved up north, the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool have certainly received more backing from the media in general. You only have to look at the clubs who these pundits have played for to realise the majority of them are from up north and have firm alliances to Man United or Liverpool. The problem of this media bias towards the teams up North has only got worse. We lost a charity shield, and lost to Burnley with 10 men with 5 first teamers out and the next minute we are in crisis. Crisis? What crisis?
If you had said to me before the start of the season that we would get 6 points from the 9 available, I would have said it would be a very acceptable start. But with Chelsea it is more than the points we have earned. We have earned back the respect we deserve for being defending champions. Something nobody can take away from us.
The win also takes significant pressure off the backs of Conte and the board, and all of a sudden, the issue does not seem as big as it once was. The result buys the board some time to go out and achieve some top quality signings to add to our thin squad. Our head coach is a serial winner, you can only imagine the destructiveness he could cause with a squad full of his 1st choice signings!
I have missed football, and have not known what to do with myself during the off season. But yesterday highlighted everything I love about football and Chelsea. Spirit, togetherness, love, passion, a real sense of a community. Everything fell into place yesterday and I felt back to where I belong. In the terraces, with my mates watching the team I love and adore. Make no mistake about it, yesterday was a statement of the highest calibre. Our rivals had better watch out, because as the lion on our badge portrays, we fight till the end and will not lie down. Make no mistake about it, Chelsea Football Club are back!
Follow the writer on Twitter @charlieblake95.