It goes without saying that Antonio Conte has taken the premier league by storm. Chelsea were a club in shambles when the Italian took over in the summer. Since then what he has done with the team is nothing short of extraordinary. He has taken a team, that finished 10th in the table only a season before, to be on the verge of winning the title.
Unless his tactics start bringing about a significant impact in the playing style of the Blues, the chances of Chelsea to stay in the hunt remain slim, as can be observed at NetBet.co.uk, which clearly indicates the edge other side in the league have in this area. Conte has come about with a lot of changes as a manager ever since he has taken up this role, in comparison to the tactics employed by him in his prior stints.
For those who followed him at Juventus, this would have come as no surprise. In Turin he had led a side that finished 7th in two consecutive seasons to three scudettos in a row. His stint with the Italian national team had shown the world about how well drilled his teams are. At Chelsea he started the season playing the formation that the club had been playing for the past 4-5 years. After back to back defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, Conte decided to revert to the 3 at the back system which has brought him incredible success thus far.
Unlike his previous clubs where he used a 3-5-2 formation at Chelsea, the Italian decided to use a 3-4-3. He felt that the later is more compatible with the the squad he has on hand.
The basic premise of the Conte’s system sees a huge role for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. This probably can be said to be the most visible change from the way Chelsea played in recent years. Instead of launching the ball in the air, Courtois looks for one of the central defenders to pass the ball to with the aim of building attacks from the back.
Here having a sweeper in David Luiz has been critical for Chelsea to be able to play in which Conte wishes them. His natural abilities and comfort on the ball is certainly key for Chelsea to build from the back. Luiz will either help push play forward vertically by running with the ball or drop deep and supply a long ball. The wide Centre backs move the ball ahead and give the team an extra man in midfield.
The wingbacks have been effective and important to the side both in attack and defense. While attacking, they provide the side with a width in attack, something Chelsea had glaringly lacked over the past few years. Both Alonso and Moses surge ahead and help the team create an overload in the attacking areas. While defending both of them take the role of the modern fullbacks and help essentially create a 5 man defense in support of the 3 Centre backs.
Antonio Conte’s side have always been midfield heavy and its pretty much the same at Chelsea. The midfield pivot at Chelsea cover a lot of ground and are a significant presence in both attack and defense. Neither of the midfielders takes a role of sitting deep and both are primarily box to box midfielders.
The solid spine behind allows Chelsea’s front 3 to freely exhibit their flair and talents. The presence of the wingbacks allows the wide forward to roam around centrally and play their natural game. While the two wide forwards keep switching sides and moving around to try effect the match and cause troubles to the opposition defenders, the center forward drops into spaces to become the focal point of the team.
How Conte gets Chelsea to defend is vastly different to some other systems in the league. Unlike Liverpool or City, Chelsea do not press high up the pitch, rather would send one player to apply pressure which is usually Diego Costa to apply pressure and allow the rest of the side the time to fall back in shape. The shape usually consists of the two wide forwards tucking into central midfield positions with the midfield and five defenders behind them very narrowly. Conte has ensured that the team is very organized and hence a very hard one to break down.
All in all, Conte has created a system which makes Chelsea play football that is pleasing to eye and also defensively strong. The team is attractive yet pragmatic. It is his work on the training field that has been key to Chelsea having the fantastic season that they are having.