Chelsea have made a strong start to life under Antonio Conte in the Premier League, but can they go all the way and lift the title at the end of the season?
The Blues sit fourth in the table after the opening nine matches – just a single point behind joint-leaders Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool – and have won each of their last four games, scoring eleven goals without reply.
Much of the credit comes down to Conte’s decision to switch to his favoured 3-4-3 formation, which served him so well during his spells with Juventus and Italy.
The Italian arguably perfected that particular formation with Juve, who he led to three consecutive Serie A titles, with three centre-halves in Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, complimented by the likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Mauricio Isla in the wing-back areas.
He then applied a similar style with the national team, who recorded an impressive victory over defending champions Spain at Euro 2016 and were unlucky to lose to Germany on penalties in the quarter-finals.
The same method is working for Chelsea at the moment and, although the Blues were beaten by West Ham United in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, their overall play was good and they just needed to be more clinical in the final third.
Ryan Smith from Freebetsmate.com believes though that “if Conte is to continue adopting the 3-4-3 system, he needs to invest in more defenders with veteran John Terry edging closer to retirement while there is always a lingering degree of uncertainty in the ability of David Luiz at the back”.
Meanwhile, Michy Batshuayi’s disappointing display which included a glaring miss from 12 yards out against the Hammers suggests that more substantial cover is needed for top scorer Diego Costa in the centre-forward position.
Nevertheless, Conte has already demonstrated that players will be picked on form rather than stature as Cesc Fabregas, who would have been one of the first names on the team sheet in most people’s eyes, has been restricted to the bench, while the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have been motivated to raise their own performance levels as a result.
Also, Victor Moses and Nathaniel Chalobah, who spent a lot of time out on loan under previous managers, have generally taken advantage of their opportunities to impress as substitutes, and appear to be firmly in the Italian’s plans.
They may need one or two minor adjustments but, following their EFL Cup elimination and no distraction of European football at Stamford Bridge, there is no reason why Chelsea cannot genuinely challenge for the Premier League title this season.