The sweetest moments in football often happen in a flash and are so much desired to be relived. These moments bring glee, sweet sensation and the feeling of triumph. You could ask the Chelsea fans how they felt when we won our first league in 50 years and the Champions League trophy in Munich. The Manchester City fans can still relive their title-winning season which was their first after 44 years. European powerhouse, Real Madrid can’t quite forget the joy of winning La Decima and it even got better with La Decima Un. Like the wonders of the world, these moments are awing. Football ignites and conjures these memorable moments that live long in the minds of the fans.
This season has encapsulated beyond our imagination bringing to fore our highs and lows, boom and doom as well as worst and best. In summary it’s like beauty and the best. However, it’s been magical, sensational and also worth reliving. Let’s relive and analyse the three wonders of Chelsea’s season so far:
THE INTRODUCTION OF THE EFFECTIVE 3-4-3 FORMATION:
When Antonio Conte was appointed as Chelsea manager, the assumptions were that he would adopt his favoured 3-5-2/4-2-4 formations that successful in his previous jobs as Coach of Siena, Bari, Juventus and Italy. After the fanfare that greeted his arrival at the club on the back of sensational and amazing European Championship with Italy, few predicted he would stick with the status quo at the club. The Italian had several secret weapons in his arsenal. Chelsea’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation was still retained by the Italian clearly because he somehow lacked the right players to execute his idea of football to the latter. Exceptionally the team won its first three games and it was rosy. But a blip against Swansea and gruelling defeats against rivals, Liverpool and Arsenal opened up the cracks of last season’s tepid title defence. A baffled and worried Conte charged out with his defiant words:
“I have to solve the situation,” said Conte. “The situation is that, every game, we concede minimum three goals. Two at the back, three at the back, four at the back, I don’t care. I just have to solve this.
“We must work. We must work a lot. A lot. If someone thinks that this season it’s going to be easy… we must work a lot to improve, to change the situation. Now we are a great team only on paper, not on the pitch. To be a great team, I prefer to be a great team not only on paper but also on the pitch.
“The pitch is the truth. The pitch speaks. The pitch is the most important thing for us: not the words, not on paper. We must change this…We know there are many difficulties, but if we understand this we are in a good position to recover and change the situation.”
Certainly Conte’s 3-4-3 formation has been a magnificent wonder. Chelsea are devastating in attack and solid defensively. For reference, our buildup play has been brilliant. Against Everton, there were 23 passes in the build-up for Eden Hazard’s second goal, the most before a goal in the Premier League this season. A record of five wins out of five with maximum points collected, 16 goals scored and no goals conceded, this is really awesome.
DEFENSIVE BRICK WALL:
Another Conte-mania wonder is our defensive solidity in recent games. Prior to the use of the three-man defence, we shipped goals for fun and just kept one clean sheet. This led to Conte’s change in strategy:
“I think we must work a lot to find some continuity,” he said. “I think that, now, the most important thing is to work and not think about other situations. We must show on the pitch that we are a great team.
“I must find the right solution for this team because, in every game, we are conceding two goals minimum. I work a lot to find the right solution.”
“I think that it’s not good to talk about the defenders because it’s more important to talk about the whole team,” he said. “Because we are a team. We win as a team, and we lose in the same way”.
Rightly said and good observations from the Chelsea boss. His choice of players for his preferred three-man defence was questionable. Gary Cahill was error-prone and short on confidence after blunders in successive games, David Luiz was seen as erratic and too adventurous upfield and Cesar Azpilicueta has never played as a centre back despite enjoying success at both full back roles. Both Conte stuck to his plan and wonderfully it has been effective. All three have been amazing leading to a haul of 5 consecutive clean sheets and against Everton they also helped Chelsea stop a team from a having a shot in the first half of a Premier League game for the first time since January 2013 against Reading. Fantastic!
THE DEADLY WINGBACK PLOY:
Arguably, nothing can be so dumbfounding and mesmerizing as an ambush. A tactical ploy to defeat enemies without their knowledge of how you intend to, is a masterstroke. Such ingenuity can keep an opposition second-guessing for ages.
Conte’s use of wingbacks was much debated as we all predicted the wrong players he intended to use. In came the first surprise package, Victor Moses at right-wing back. The Nigerian has taken to his new role like duck to water. He has been a menacing force of brain and brawn. His skill set, breezing pace and appetite for goal has been a major factor in the team’s resurgence. After enduring years in Chelsea’s loan system, he certainly has the traits of a difference maker. Also, his opposite number, Marcos Alonso was a much criticised acquisition but his all round display and contribution to the team’s cause has silenced his critics. Both have given Chelsea a new dimension in attack and defense.
We certainly look on course to make history. Let’s believe we can. Cheers!