How Antonio Conte can breathe new life into Chelsea
Chelsea may not be struggling, but they are not quite the team they were last season.
Chelsea are not a team who are struggling like Jose Mourinho’s side two seasons ago, but in order to compete both domestically and in Europe, Antonio Conte’s side need a new lease of life.
They were sky high after their win away to Atletico Madrid, but just a few days later they were brought straight back down to earth as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side beat them at Stamford Bridge. It was the first time a top four side has beaten Chelsea at the Bridge whilst being managed by the Italian.
The former Juventus boss needs to recover quickly, and more to the point, he needs to figure out a way for his team to play without being heavily reliant on their summer signing Alvaro Morata. After he was hauled off with a hamstring injury against City, the Blues looked unsure of their game plan and were seemingly happy for the game to end in a draw.
The Spaniard is hopeful of returning for Chelsea’s fixture against Palace on October 14, but they look toothless in their star striker's absence. This is unlike City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, who all have replacements for their main striker, whilst Conte is still extremely reluctant to afford Michy Batshuayi any chances.
It isn’t a problem to rely on Morata to score goals, it is expected of him. But Chelsea are lacking a plan B currently. They even struggled to break down Arsenal, who have one of the poorest records of any team away at Stamford Bridge, as the forward was marked out of the game.
Dropping the captain
First and foremost, a crucial decision that will immediately make the team play better would be dropping Gary Cahill. The Englishman has been a long servant at Stamford Bridge, but his glory days look to be finished. A back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger would solidify the defence and more importantly make Chelsea better at passing the ball out from the back.
Last season, Marcus Rashford was ordered to hunt down Cahill, similar to how Alex Iwobi was just a few weeks ago, and they both had lots of joy pressing the 31-year-old. They often forced him backwards and it eventually led to Chelsea playing the ball long, an unnecessary process which wouldn’t take place with the stated back three.
In the video below, even Luiz is seen getting frustrated with Cahill's reluctance to shift the ball forward in the home match against Arsenal.
Another frustrating factor in the current Chelsea team is that the Italian is switching around with formations, sometimes abandoning the 3-4-3 which has brought his side so much success. Recently, N’Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas have all played together, which has led to some confusion among the fans.
The two French midfielders are building a formidable partnership, whilst Fabregas is seemingly getting in their way as he desperately attempts to see more of the ball. With Eden Hazard now fully fit again, the 3-4-3 must return with both Willian and the Belgian playing on either side of Morata.
This then leads onto the final point, Victor Moses. Sat on the bench watching against City, the Nigerian international saw the Blues offer nothing in the attack on Azpilicueta’s right-hand side.
Understandably Conte was cautious of Leroy Sane, so deciding to start with Azpilicueta was a good decision. However, being 1-0 down, Moses would have offered fresh legs and helped the home side threaten City, but he remained on the bench and the visitors remained very comfortable defensively. With Delph playing at left-back, it was a position Conte could have tried to exploit late in the game, but he refused.
For Chelsea to galvanise and find their form of last year, Moses must play regularly. He’s a crucial part of their attacking play, and if Morata isn’t fit, he offers a direct threat as he stretches the pitch and gets in behind fullbacks.
Ultimately, the decisions are up to the Blues boss. He may have been disappointed with the summer transfer window, but his current squad are still capable of great things. It may include him ruffling a few feathers and potentially disappointing a few fans by making bold decisions, but for the best interests of the club, he needs to make changes to their line-up.
With his tactical ability, and his decision to switch to a 3-4-3 last season that led to a 13 game win streak, everyone knows the Italian is more than capable of breathing new life into this Chelsea team.