After a slow start to pre-season, it seems that Chelsea are finally starting to find their feet under new management.
Antonio Conte has got his squad playing well so far, and with pre-season games now coming thick and fast, it was important that the side got off to a good start.
That is exactly what they did this morning, with Chelsea winning against Liverpool 1-0 in a friendly game played during a tour of the United States.
Now of course, it IS just pre-season, and it was just a friendly – but these games will play a big role in Antonio Conte’s decisions going forward; and there are some key takeaways that can be taken from the game.
With that, here are FIVE things that Chelsea can take away from their friendly against Liverpool…
After a poor season defensively last year, and a shaky start to pre-season this summer – it looks like Antonio Conte has finally gotten his message across to his players in defence.
Young full back Ola Aina in particular was a highlight, looking comfortable and assured on the right hand side of the Chelsea defence – Branislav Ivanovic will have a real task ahead of him to get back into the first team come August.
The defensive looked ruthless at the back, not allowing Liverpool much of anything throughout the entirety of the game.
Question marks have been placed over the future of Asmir Begovic, and whilst he didn’t have much to do he also looked comfortable in goal.
The defensive quartet of Aina, Terry, Cahill and Azpilicueta all played the full 90 minutes, perhaps giving fans an inkling into who might get the nod when the season begins.
We’ve already touched upon Ola Aina getting some game time, but it is truly refreshing to see how much attention Antonio Conte has placed on the progression of youth so far during pre-season.
Ola Aina, alongside his more experienced defenders alongside him, got the full 90 minutes and so looks a shoe in to become a key part of the squad next season.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has continued his impressive start to life as a Chelsea first teamer, and Conte looks set to utilise him more often going forward.
Nathaniel Chalobah is perhaps the most interesting member of the pre-season squad, as the young Englishman was not really a part of Mourinho’s plans whilst he was at the club. Conte seemingly sees something in the youngster however, and he has really impressed when given the opportunity.
Maybe these young stars will actually get an opportunity going forward.
It’s an obvious one; but the Chelsea players are already looking much fitter than they were a week ago.
Players are starting to play full 90 minute matches, and other stars are looking full of life and energy throughout the entirety of their spells on the pitch.
Even compared to this point last summer, Chelsea look much more fit and ready for the season; which is definitely a testament to how well Antonio Conte has got his squad training.
This will only get better with time.
A lot has been made about the number of yellow cards produced on the pitch during the game; but it is refreshing to see just how much passion Antonio Conte is instilling in his players.
Yes, it is just a friendly – but Liverpool are an arch-rival of the Blues, and Conte wants to ensure that the Chelsea players are aware of how important all fixtures are.
If Conte can get his squad this passionate about a pre-season fixture; one can only imagine how the players will feel going into the start of the Premier League season.
We’ve already touched on how much Chelsea have improved between this game and the last; but particularly interesting to note was how well the players were interacting and playing between one another.
The Chelsea defence looked flawless, with each player a constant during the game; and they seemed to be working very well together.
It was a similar story up and down the pitch, despite the fact that players were constantly being chopped and changed; and it is very interesting to note how well the club are playing as a team.
Last season Chelsea were a squad of individuals; this summer the club are already starting to look like a team.