Connect in the back of the net

As the English Premiership has come to an end, allow me to join the entire football fraternity across the globe in congratulating Chelsea Football Club for lifting the coveted English Premier League crown after a topsy- turvy season.

When Chelsea suffered losses to Premiership rivals, particularly Liverpool (at home) and Arsenal (away), every football fan felt the team would only contest for the top 4 finish after the previous season’s inexplicable malaise.

Even the top 4 finish looked a wee bit impossible as the big teams had engaged seasoned coaches known for winning leagues namely, Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, perennial contenders Arsenal with Arsene Wenger and the ever-improving Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino.

 

Taking matters into his own hands

However, the little Italian affectionately known as the Don to many football fans or Antonio Conte to his parents, had an ace upon his sleeve albeit he decided to remain humble in the face of ridicule.

In fact at some stage after those two painful losses, rumours started circulating that he was considering quitting but boy oh boy what a turnaround of fortunes he engineered from then on!

It would appear that when Conte took over the reins at Chelsea he did not want to rock the boat as it were, because he played the same formation and even the same first eleven that his predecessor Mourinho had used in his disastrous 2015-16 season.

After the defeat at Arsenal, Conte decided to take matters to his hands by not only changing the formation but also relegating certain players to the bench including club stalwarts like club captain John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas, and Oscar among others.  

Ivanovic and Oscar eventually left the club for ‘greener pastures’ but Conte was unmoved.

 

Mending matters quietly and successfully

True to his humble character Conte, did not dominate the headlines like Mourinho or Guardiola, but there was only one winner in the battle of the Premier League super managers. The Italian pulled Chelsea through a difficult start to the season and they never looked back.

The switch to a 3-4-3 formation was so successful it even inspired the rest of the Premier League clubs to do the same. Conte also brought the best out of individual players.

Victor Moses (who hitherto had failed to nail his place under various managers) and Marcos Alonso shone as wing-backs, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were reinvigorated, while N’Golo Kante was able to replicate his Leicester form which eventually won him the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.

Resounding victories over Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City highlighted Conte’s worth ethic on the training ground and his strategy of ensuring that they stole most points from main rivals while collecting as much points as possible from the so called “small teams”.

 

Deserved champions

A close analysis of the just finished season would suggest perhaps that the most impressive aspect of Chelsea’s success was their relentlessness. They did not drop points in consecutive games from September onwards.

Once they got going, the title never really looked in doubt. That streak of victories was business-like and at that point many football pundits already agreed unanimously that Chelsea would win the league.

At the end of it all when the statistics below are considered, one can only understand why the Blue Army eventually emerged as worthy winners of a very very difficult league.

Total Premier League Rank
Points 93 1st
Goals Scored 85 2nd
Goals Conceded 33 3rd
Away Wins 14 1st
Clean Sheets 16 2nd
Points per game vs 2nd -6th teams 1.6 2nd
Points per game vs 7th -20th teams 2.7 1st
Shot conversion percentage 14.4 1st
Shots on target faced 97 1st
Starting X1 changes 38 1st

 

Written by Spencer Joubert

Follow Spencer on Twitter @SpencerJoubert

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