Antonio Conte Embraced the New and the Old at Chelsea
We're closing in on the 14th anniversary of Roman Abramovich becoming the owner of Chelsea, which shifted the paradigm of English football and was an important part of the financial growth and spending in the Premier League. And to be honest, things have been pretty sweet for the Blues ever since.
A total of 14 major trophies have found their place in Chelsea's trophy case since, with the most recent addition being the Premier League title this past season after a dominant performance that saw manager Antonio Conte and the West London club reach the top of the table after 13 matches and never look back.
But how does it compare to Chelsea's past decade? It's somewhat hard to say, considering that Chelsea has had some pretty dominant seasons. Comparing one year of dominance to another can be difficult, but it loses a little face when you consider that a title-winning season is a title-winning season.
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On a base level, this past season ranks right up there with Chelsea's back-to-back trophies in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Jose Mourinho, fresh off winning the Champions League with FC Porto, took the Blues to breathtaking heights, securing 95 and 91 points in back-to-back seasons and frustrating the rest of England with his intelligent, defensive play.
Conte had to deal with early adversity in his debut year. The first 10 weeks saw Chelsea struggling to grab a hold of the rest of the league, most notably during the 3-0 drumming they received from Arsenal. However, the shift to a three-man backline sparked chemistry in the squad, and the team that looked like it may not completely recover from finishing 10th in 2015-16 instead marched to a league title.
It's the transition from Mourinho and Guus Hiddink after the failure of the previous season that really makes Conte's success this past year even more impressive. With competitors like Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City adding top-notch managers, it seemed like this would be one of the toughest, most tactical seasons in EPL history.
And it's not like Chelsea went overboard with transfers, this wasn't a Blues team that was completely overhauled. Besides the â‚¬60 million departure of Oscar, most of the core remained. The additions of Marcos Alonso, N'Golo Kante, Michy Batshuayi and David Luiz had varying degrees of success, but each played a role. Kante and Alonso became mainstays, with Kante in particular proving to be a vital cog.
Conte and Chelsea made good use of their new additions, but the club did an even better job of working with the resources at hand. Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard had dramatic returns to form after down seasons in 2015-16, and while the Italian manager may not "need" Costa, he certainly got a lot out of him this past season.
Here's what the trio did in 2015-16.
And it doesn't hold a candle to their production from 2016-17.
Furthermore, this past season saw Victor Moses finally return to Stamford Bridge after years of loans at Stoke City, West Ham and Liverpool. The Nigerian last played for the Blues in the 2012-13 season, but this year he slotted nicely into a wing-back role and is just another testament to Conte's ability to make use of the resources he had.
Conte and Chelsea reached the league's highest point total since Chelsea's title in 2005-06, and it's worth mentioning that, besides the influx of managerial changes, the former Azzurri manager had to deal with Mauricio Pochettino and a very good Tottenham Hotspur side.
Spurs totaled 86 points, the highest total by a runner-up since 2011-12 and a total that would've won the league last season. Chelsea did better than match them, splitting victories in the league before putting in a clinical performance to beat Spurs 4-2 in the F.A. Cup semi-final.
Chelsea Football Club has plenty of aspects about it that the modern day Premier League fan loves to hate -- the "no history" factor, the type of defense-first football that became synonymous with Mourinho's time at Chelsea and generally shrewd transfer business.
But Conte has brought Chelsea back to form while also making an easy-to-dislike team a joy to watch. No one ever enjoys a boring title race (outside of the winning club), but watching the well-drilled Blues execute a new formation on the fly under a new manager was truly a sight to behold. Hate them or love them, Chelsea and Conte are going to be a force to be reckoned with again next season.