Antonio Conte's ruthlessness is what Chelsea needs
If history has taught us one thing, it is how ruthlessness helped emperors conquer lands stretching from one horizon to another. For all the opulence they put on display, it was the concordant savageness that put everything in place.
Be it Genghis Khan or Alexander The Great, every great emperor let go of nostalgia and inertia to acquire territories that made them immortal in the books of history.
The definition of inertia is, “the tendency to remain in an existing state unless an external force acts upon it.” Inertia has been the cause of the downfall of many football managers; just ask Vicente del Bosque. Even though his managerial career remains unprecedented, Spain’s performance in the last two international competitions put a slight dent on his legacy.
The former Real Madrid manager’s refusal to change things up cost Spain dearly as they couldn’t progress past the round of 16 in both the tournaments.
Learning from other people’s mistake is a unique ability in itself. And it seems like the former Juventus coach, Antonio Conte, possesses that ability. In his first few games in charge, he persisted with a 4-2-3-1 system and the results were mixed, to put it in simple terms.
Most coaches would have lingered around, trying to make tiny tweaks to make the system work rather than make a total change. After all, there is a bit of ego to protect here. Almost every coach in the world thinks that he is right, hence, the apparent stubbornness to accept that his idea isn’t going to work is always there.
All this doesn’t matter for Antonio Conte. He might come off as an authoritarian who likes to have complete control over his players, but when it comes to putting the team above himself, he doesn’t hesitate even a little bit.
He could have kept testing the 4-2-3-1, fine-tuning things here and there by changing the set of players with which he played that system. Instead, he made a complete overhaul, without considering the fact that some big name players will have to be sacrificed in the process.
Chelsea’s new 3-4-3 system
In Chelsea’s last two games, the Italian tactician used a 3-4-3 system that has earned him critical acclaim from the press. And he deserves every bit of it.
John Terry’s injury and the fact that pairing the duo of David Luiz and Gary Cahill was always going to be a disaster waiting to happen made Antonio Conte reconsider his tactical system. As an Italian, his natural instinct was always going to be to build a defensively solid side.
And that, he did.
When in the right conditions, David Luiz can be a world class player. And no better system suits his abilities more than the current one. With N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic protecting him from the front and Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill from the sides, Chelsea have a back-up to Luiz’s ovoverzealousness.
While in attack, the Blues still have four players guarding the goal and yet not feel short-handed going forward.
Kante’s exceptional season as an old-school holding midfielder with Leicester last year often makes people forget the fact that he is also great when in possession of the ball. The Frenchman has an array of passing range and a good vision to make it count. His lobbed pass to Eden Hazard in the 18th minute against Leicester City is the perfect testament to that.
However, what sets him apart from Nemanja Matic is his dribbling and ball-control skills, which are superior to his Serbian partner. When under pressure, he can still keep the ball and find his way out of it, which is why Kante is the one with the license to move forward and not Matic.
The rest of it is standard Conte stuff. Pedro and Hazard cutting in from the wings while the wing-backs push forward and give an extra dimension. The fun part here are the wing-backs. Both Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso have played as wide midfielders and are adept at their new roles.
While Victor Moses may be completely new to the role and, hence, susceptible to making defensive errors, the former Real Madrid youth player is an experienced campaigner.
The fact that the former Siena manager is using three center-halves shows that he always has a back-up plan should things go awry. Since Moses, as mentioned before, can be liable to making positional errors, there are three defenders to cover him up.
Chelsea’s front three are revitalised
The interchangeable front three of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Pedro are also a delight to watch now. The Belgian has more space to cut inside than he did in a standard 4-3-3 and is making full use of it.
Pedro, despite not being as talented as most of his Barca counterparts back in the day, made a living out of clever runs from the wings and was one of the most dangerous players to defend against, which he is replicating now at Chelsea.
What happens when the wingers cut in and the wing-backs push forward? Space is created. Lots of it. That was evident in Chelsea’s play against the Foxes, as we saw on countless times, both Hazard and Pedro cutting in and feeding the ball to the onrushing Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses out towards the touchlines.
This stretched Ranieri’s men one too many times and Chelsea were having a field day in the first half.
Antonio Conte’s lack of ego, when it comes to working with systems, and ruthlessness, is what gave him the reputation that he has today. And these are the traits needed to carry the team forward.
They say that change is nature and one of the few constants in this world, and yet most people are afraid of it. The ones who aren’t, however, are the ones that succeed in life – and Antonio Conte is one of those people.