Antonio Conte is one of a host of new managers in the Premier League this season. The Italian is joined by Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho in the upper echelon of the league and each manager will be facing tremendous pressure from the off.
With so many big names at expectant clubs, we are almost guaranteed to see – at least – one manager fall flat on their face this season.
It’s hard not to be enthralled about the prospect of a new Premier League season – and this one is no different. The unknown players, changes in managers and that sheer unpredictability as every team starts with a clean slate. Who can get off to a flyer? Who will have to scrape themselves away from relegation troubles? It’s bloody brilliant, isn’t it?
Chelsea will probably be hoping they don’t see themselves in 16th again this season. The club that specialises in meltdowns needs a good year this year.
Here are THREE players who will make or break their season…
This sort of goes without saying. Eden Hazard is absolutely crucial to everything that Chelsea will do.
2014/15 – Hazard was brilliant, Chelsea were brilliant. 2015/16 – Hazard struggled for fitness and form, Chelsea had a terrible year.
It’s not coincidence. The Belgian winger may see his role change under Conte, but his importance to this Chelsea squad will never diminish. It isn’t just the goals or assists with Hazard, it’s the threat he provides, his ability to hold the ball up with his astonishing close control and dictate the attack.
Other Chelsea attackers notably find more space when Hazard is playing – often because he’s being double marked – and his ability to dribble the ball without challenge is an asset in itself.
Kante, if he replicates anything like his Leicester form from last year, will go down as one of the signings of the summer.
Although he isn’t the conventional defensive midfielder than many like to portray him as, the Frenchman provides energy and tackling to a Chelsea midfield that was walked through all too often last season. Kante led the league in both tackles and interceptions last season and Chelsea could sure do with some of that this time around.
Whether played alongside Matic, Fabregas or Loftus-Cheek, Kante will be the player charged with winning back possession and quickly moving it on to a more accomplished passer.
If he performs as well as he did for Leicester and France last season, the Blues will be a threat.
Unless Chelsea make some sort of drastic defensive change before Zouma returns from injury, the young Frenchman will be absolutely integral to their campaign. After his horrific knee injury last season, the Blues collapsed even further defensively, as Terry, Cahill and Ivanovic struggled to hold things together.
This may well all change under Antonio Conte, but I wouldn’t hold your breath if you were a Chelsea fan. Their continue faffing in the transfer market has seen Stones go elsewhere and there seems to be little progress in their attempts to sign Kalidou Koulibaly.
Time is running out for Chelsea to add defensively, but, whatever happens, Zouma will be key once he is fully fit to provide some pace and energy to the back line.