A 10th place finish. Iconic manager Jose Mourinho sacked. With how poorly last season went for Chelsea, almost anything would be seen as an improvement for the massive English side. With the appointment of Italian manager Antonio Conte, the club seemed to be taking a step in the right direction.
But no one could’ve imagined that Chelsea would bounce back so quickly by winning the league in Conte’s first season in charge. Not only did Chelsea win the Premier League, but they did it in dominant fashion against teams led by the likes of Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho.
Winning In Style
Chelsea were buoyed by strong performances from signings N’Golo Kante and David Luiz, first team newcomers Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso, and regulars Eden Hazard and Diego Costa among many others. These players combined to create countless chances in every match, counter with deadly effectiveness and pace, and defend solidly to maintain their rightful place at the top of the table.
The statistics and awards surrounding Chelsea this season further illustrate just how superior they were in the league. With two games left to play:
• Goal difference of 47: best in the league
• 76 goals scored: most in the league
• Conceded the third-lowest number of goals with 29
• Club-record 13 consecutive wins from 1 October 2016 to 31 December 2016
• Diego Costa with 20 league goals: club top scorer and tied third-highest in the league
• Thibaut Courtois with 16 clean sheets: highest in the league
• N’Golo Kante: PFA Player’s Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year
• Record: 28W – 3D – 5L
A Rough Start
Although it looked easy for Chelsea to win their fifth Premier League title, they had a less-than-stellar start to the season characterized by patchy form and inconsistent lineups.
After 3 wins in a row, Chelsea suffered a disappointing 2-2 draw away to Swansea before succumbing at home to Liverpool (1-2) and away to Arsenal (3-0). That drastic loss to Arsenal left Chelsea sitting in eighth place, making it seem like nothing had changed from last season. But the loss is also what sparked a change with Chelsea. They would not be replicating the disaster of the previous season.
The Beast Awakens
Antonio Conte was prompted to switch to a 3-4-3 formation, and the performances improved substantially. Chelsea would go on to lose only 3 more times, drop points at home 1 more time, and never drop points 2 matches in a row before clinching the league title.
Chelsea’s formation switch fixed seemingly all of their previous issues and imbued the team with the title-winning characteristics they now display every week. Due to their compact and solid formation, they severely cut down on the number of goals they were conceding. Chelsea were also creating more chances with quick, short passing, and the goals showed for it.
A consistent starting line-up every week also brought stability to the club that allowed their performances to improve over time. A lack of European football to play helped Chelsea cope with the lack of rotation in some positions.
Improving a team’s performances through tactical changes is an important step forward, but it means nothing if good results don’t follow. Fortunately for Chelsea, the good results rained down immediately. Their record-breaking string of 13 wins followed immediately after the Arsenal match and included dominant 4-0 and 5-0 wins against Manchester United and Everton, respectively. Wins against Tottenham and Manchester City also marked impressive results against Top 4 contenders.
Then, after defeating West Brom at home, Chelsea climbed up to first place and held on to the top spot for most of the season before clinching the league title. Somewhat poetically, they went on to secure their first Premier League title since the 2014-2015 season with a win at the Hawthorns. Chelsea’s incredible season had come full circle.
Looking to the Future
Now that the league has been wrapped up, Chelsea Football Club can look towards their FA Cup final against London rivals Arsenal. Adding another trophy to their season would certainly help the pain of last season be forgotten while putting a cherry on top of this delightful year of football. Captain John Terry, who has been a loyal servant to the club for 22 years, will also be overjoyed to end his memorable Chelsea career on a high note.
The next season holds an exciting prospect for Chelsea. Antonio Conte will look to replicate his domestic success with the club while putting his players to the test in a return to the Champions League. It remains to be seen if Chelsea will be able to cope with pushing for 4 trophies in a season, but a side with this level of quality will surely be a threat to the teams around them.