The 2015/16 season saw Chelsea put up the worst title defence in Premier League history. But barely six months later, with Antonio Conte now at the helm, the Blues have won seven games in a row after switching to a variation of the 3-4-3 system. This run has catapulted the Londoners to the top of the table.
Here are five reasons why they are title favourites.
#1 The Back Three and the Wingbacks
Chelsea’s defence has conceded only a single goal since their aforementioned change of formation. A large part of the credit for this feat should go to their three-man backline comprising of David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill.
The trio’s roles have been beautifully crafted to optimise their strengths and minimise their weaknesses. This master stroke has made this threesome the heart of the best defence in the league. While Cahill and Azpilicueta have always been considered to be two of the finest defenders in the league, the performances of David Luiz have come as a bit of a surprise.
The Brazilian, who has been maligned by the English media because of his erratic tendencies, has curbed his bad habits and commanded the backline with ease and grace. A huge improvement from the performances that led Gary Neville to label him a “Playstation Defender.”
One of the crucial factors in the success of any system featuring three at the back is the performance of the wingbacks because they must provide width and spacing in addition to fulfilling their defensive responsibilities.
Juventus, who Chelsea are looking to emulate, have invested heavily in these positions with the likes of Dani Alves, Patrice Evra, Stephan Lichsteiner, Kwadwo Asamoah and Alex Sandro all playing the Wing Back role at some point in the last five years.
Chelsea,on the other hand, have gambled by filling in these positions with two journeymen in Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso. But to the pair’s utmost credit they have both gone about their business with aplomb. They’ve adapted to different situations seamlessly, combining overlapping runs and accurate crosses with tactical discipline and astute defending.
They’ve also scored three goals in the seven games that they’ve started, the most notable of these being Victor Moses’s winner, which ended Tottenham’s unbeaten run in the Premier League.