Antonio Conte’s tweaks have restored Chelsea’s EPL title contender status
Three of the top five teams in the Premier League dropped points this weekend, which opened the door to two teams not in any European action this week: Liverpool and Chelsea. Liverpool has reached the top of the Premier League after a 6-1 win over Watford, while Chelsea blitzed Everton 5-0 and looks more like the team that won the title in 2015–with some interesting differences.
Just as before, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are playing at their best for Chelsea at the moment. Hazard scored two goals and assisted another, with his total of seven goals this season already three more than all of last season (which continues the debate as to just why he was so poor during that year).
But coach Antonio Conte has not just gotten the best out of his star players. He has done a lot more: the back-to-back losses to Liverpool (1-2) and Arsenal (0-3) in September gave him the perfect excuse to change the system to his preferred back three. He has promoted Victor Moses, overlooked and loaned out by previous Chelsea bosses, to start at right wingback and rewarded good form by keeping Pedro on the right wing even though Willian is back from his compassionate leave.
“We changed it because we conceded a lot of goals in nearly every game and conceded many chances,” Conte explained after the game. “Usually, when you lose, it’s important to have a good idea and to change to improve; to explain why you had this defeat. Together with the players, I worked very hard at finding a new way to change the situation.”
Chelsea has now won five league games in a row, scoring 16 goals without conceding any. After the international break, it faces a new test: Middlesbrough and then back-to-back games against Manchester City and Tottenham. The top five teams are ahead of the pack at the moment, and the games between each of them could be decisive. It’s too early to pick a favorite, but Chelsea is a definite contender.