Antonio Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge this summer after agreeing to become Chelsea’s new head coach back in April on a three-year deal. The former Juventus man has previously won the ‘Panchina d’Oro’ (the English equivalent of manager of the season) for 3 years on the bounce as he guided Juventus to consecutive Serie A titles in each of those years. Besides this, he has since taken a somewhat weak Italy side to the quarter-finals of this summer’s Euros, only to be knocked out on penalties to reigning World Champions Germany.
Due to such feats, Conte has arrived in West London with high expectations and given Chelsea fans plenty to be excited about in the immediate future with his high-intensity style of play and the passion he shows on the touchline; something the club had been lacking for the past few years.
West Ham and Slaven Bilić were Conte’s first opponents of the season on Monday evening, and the Hammers arrived in high spirits following an excellent campaign last year and their move into the Olympic Stadium this summer.
Previously renowned for his use of a 4-2-4 formation with Bari and Siena, and a successful 3-5-2 with Juventus and the Italian national team, Conte showed himself to be versatile with the squad he currently has in place and set up with a 4-1-4-1 on Monday evening. Summer signing N’Golo Kanté played the holding role in front of the defence while Diego Costa led the line as the lone striker being supported by Hazard and Willian on the wings.
The options the Blues also had on the bench with Pedro, Moses and newly signed Michy Batshuayi among others, meant Antonio Conte was, in fact, able to use a variety of formations throughout the game. Not long into the match, Chelsea matched West Ham’s 4-3-3 by moving Kanté slightly forward from a holding role to join Oscar and Matic in a flat trio. This enabled Chelsea’s full backs to have more of an impact further up the field which worked a treat and led to the opening goal after Cesar Azpilicueta was bundled to the floor in the box for a penalty.
After taking the lead, they looked to build upon this and got a real foothold in the game. The surprise goal West Ham then managed, however, upset things and meant Conte had to change his team again in order to get back in front. The changes came and given the eventual outcome, West Ham’s goal can almost be seen as a blessing in disguise. The equaliser gave Chelsea and their manager a chance to show versatility and resilience; two traits that supporters at Stamford Bridge were starved off last year.
On came new boy Michy Batshuayi who took his place alongside Diego Costa as Conte switched to his favoured 4-2-4. Hazard and Willian were replaced by Pedro and Victor Moses to provide width and pace to the attack, and Chelsea were now in search of a late winner.
They didn’t have to wait long, Diego Costa was the man of the moment once again, snatching all three points at the death.
With Conte already experimenting with three different formations he will have plenty to choose from this season and for the games against the so-called top four, it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top. The Italian’s ability to rejuvenate a team that had just one change from the opening day of last season’s Premier League campaign was incredible and bodes well ahead of any new additions that may further improve this team. Chelsea fans have plenty to be optimistic about.