Antonio Conte got his reign as Chelsea manager off to the ideal start on Monday night as he side got the better of West Ham in what was a lively London derby. I wouldn’t quite say it was a flying start as Chelsea needed a last minute goal to snatch all three points, but Conte and his men will no doubt be delighted that they are off to a winning start.
You get the feeling that this Chelsea team is going to be a work in progress and the Premier League title returning to Stamford Bridge may just be too big of an ask this season but the top four is certainly within reach. That said it’s going to be a very competitive season this time around and a few things are going to have to go right if Chelsea are going to make it back to Europe’s premier club competition.
Here are 3 key areas that Chelsea will have to have covered over the course of the season:
This article was submitted via our Write For Us feature. Think you can do better? Submit your own article via the link below, and give yourself the chance of winning monthly cash prizes…
The two seasons previous to this one have seen the best and worst of Diego Costa, the title winning season of 2014/15 saw Costa fly out of the blocks as his early glut of goals put Chelsea in a dominating position at the top of the table and it was one they never looked back from. Whilst last season saw injuries, a lack of form and ill-discipline as Chelsea’s defence of the Premier League title was non-existent.
If you are going to win a league title then it always helps if you have someone in your side who can score 20 goals or more, and Costa was exactly that person in the 2014/15 season. If that Diego Costa can return this season then the outlook for Chelsea is very promising while for opposition defenders, well, not so much.
The talk of Romelu Lukaku possibly coming to Chelsea has seemingly lit a fire under the Brazilian-born Spanish international and there was evidence of that in Monday’s win over West Ham when he scored the late winner.
With Pedro screaming for the ball out wide he did what every good striker would do: he went alone and fired a brilliant low effort past Adrian to give Chelsea a win. That’s the Costa that Chelsea fans first fell in love with, it looks like the romance could be reignited this season.
On the basis of his debut in a Chelsea shirt then the answer yes. The £32m signing from Leicester will certainly endear himself to Chelsea fans after his display of tenacious tackling on Monday night. He only needed three minutes before going into the referee’s notepad, it may have needlessly put him on a defensive tightrope for the rest of the game but it did show that he’s lost nothing since his move from last season’s league winners.
For the last few seasons Chelsea have been lacking the kind of player who can act as the defensive shield to a back four and let the real stars do their thing further up the pitch. With Conte setting out in a 4-1-4-1 formation it looks as if that is exactly the role that Kante will be tasked with this season.
That role takes on even more importance for Chelsea especially in the early part of the season while they wait for the return of Kurt Zouma from injury, Chelsea’s back four isn’t getting any younger and Kante will be required to make sure that they don’t have too much to deal with. It’s going to be a big ask but Kante has all the attributes needed to carry out the job in hand.
Last season Kante was a midfield destroyer who gave freedom to Mahrez and Vardy, and this season it will be about affording those same freedoms to Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
If you were to name the player who had the biggest drop-off in from from the title-winning exploits of 2014/2015 to the shipwreck which was 2015/2016 then the answer would without question be Eden Hazard. From winning personal accolades such as the PFA Player of the Year and then FWA Footballer of the Year in Chelsea’s title-winning campaign he was almost non-existent last season.
You could almost say that Hazard’s season didn’t start until April as that is when he registered his first goals, a brace against Bournemouth got him finally off the mark and he would then go on to score two more. Tottenham fans will certainly remember the goal that finally ended their title hopes, but for a player of Hazard’s quality four goals last season was nowhere near enough.
It seemed that without Hazard pulling the strings last season Chelsea looked devoid of ideas.
There always seems to be talk of a move to PSG looming over Eden Hazard, and at 25 years old the Belgian international still has his best years ahead of him, but whether or not he spends all those years in west London remains to be seen. But should he return to the form of 2014/15, then Europe’s very biggest clubs will certainly be clamouring for his signature once again.