When Antonio Conte came to Chelsea, he had the intention of playing a 4-2-4 formation, but after studying the team during the pre-season, he opted to set the team in a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 formation, while the 4-2-4 became a backup formation when the team was chasing the winner.
The season started in good fashion, though Chelsea struggled to win the first two games of the season, before eventually drawing against Swansea in Match Day 4. After the 2-2 draw with Swansea, two losses followed against Liverpool and Arsenal — and Conte decided it was time for a change, which led to a 3-4-3 formation against Hull City.
However, prior to the game against Hull City, Conte played another system against Arsenal. He switched to a 3-5-2 system against the Gunners to reduce the damage Arsene Wenger’s men has inflicted on the team. With the team set up in the 3-5-2 system, Arsenal’s piercing attack was restricted in the second-half.
While the 3-4-3 formation has been Conte’s main formation this season, he has deployed the 3-5-2 system a number of times, and it could be said to be his backup system.
Late in the game against Spurs, Conte brought in Oscar for Pedro to help shore things in midfield, as Chelsea looked to preserve the 2-1 league against their London rivals. Oscar’s appearance gave the team a 3-5-2 shape rather than a 3-4-3 shape. Against Manchester City, Conte also played 3 central midfielders late in the game, as he tried to close shop against Guardiola’s men. Chalobah came in for Costa, thereby giving the team extra presence in midfield, while Willian and Hazard ran the show upfront. More recently, Conte played a 3-5-2 formation against West Bromwich Albion. With the score at 0-0, Conte switched to a 4-2-4 system in order to open up a stubborn Baggies defence, rather it left holes in the Chelsea midfield until Costa put Chelsea ahead with less than 15 minutes of normal time to play. Immediately after the goal, Conte brought on Ivanovic for Hazard, leaving Willian and Costa upfront, while Fabregas, Matic and Kante sat in the heart of the midfield.
On a number of occasions, Conte has also brought in Nathaniel Chalobah to play in the middle, and in some of those games, the team has played a 3-5-2 system.
In just few months as Chelsea manager, Conte has proven that he’s the ‘tactical one’, and he has also shown that he’s a proactive manager, with the way he plans tactics way ahead of time. While some managers choose to get stuck with one system, Conte isn’t afraid to change the shape of his team, and that’s exactly why Chelsea are on top of the table. He already has a winning system in place, and a back-up plan as well.