Chelsea had a lot to be pleased with for Antonio Conte’s first season at the club. A dominant Premier League title win was a massive improvement over their previous season, so now the club will aim to build on their successes.
LAST SEASON: BACK TO THE TOP
At the beginning of last season, Chelsea probably did not have the highest of expectations. But Conte made a world of difference with his formation change to a three-at-the-back formation. From that point on, Chelsea never looked like slowing down.
The London club’s dominant march to the league title left many wondering if they would be able to recreate the magic for another season, or if their success was only the result of a change of tactics that no one adapted to.
Despite the incredible strength of Chelsea’s starting lineup, the ability to sustain their quality will ultimately depend on their overall squad strength.
The Chelsea of last season would have run into much more trouble had they been hit with injuries to some of their star players. Clearly Conte had the right idea with wanting to strengthen his squad with transfers during this summer window.
Chelsea have shown good ambition in the transfer window so far. They replaced Asmir Begovic with Willy Caballero on a free transfer from Manchester City to keep their backup goalkeeper position in check. Antonio Rüdiger was brought in from AS Roma for £32 million to strengthen the center-back position.
Rüdiger brings the kind of quality that can allow Chelsea to continue with their three-at-the-back formation with several combinations of defenders, after he takes the time to adapt to Conte’s tactics. He is also able to make up for the loss of Nathan Aké to Bournemouth.
Bakayoko also brings a lot of cover to the central midfield area of the pitch, which is crucial now that Nemanja Matic has left the club for title rivals Manchester United. Losing a key starting player is never something you want to see from a title-winning club, but Chelsea’s reaction to the loss is promising.
And, after Bakayoko’s influential season at Monaco in the last year, he will surely have Chelsea fans excited to see what the talented midfielder can do.
When Conte told Diego Costa through text that he would be out of the picture for Chelsea next season, a massive void was left open in the striker position that needed to be filled.
Then it looked like Chelsea were beaten to the signing of Romelu Lukaku by Manchester United. Luckily for Chelsea, they still managed to sign a quality striker in the form of Morata, though for the price they paid he will need to make an immediate impact if he is to justify a starting position.
One of the last remaining questions surrounding Chelsea’s squad now is what will Michy Batshuayi’s role be. He was a backup last season, so with Costa surely leaving, can he step up to fight for a starting role? Or will the purchase of Morata mean that he will be given more time to develop in a supporting role?
Furthermore, some would say that Chelsea are still lacking in the creative department. Perhaps the last signing they need is a creative midfielder to allow goals to come from more places.
LOOKING AT THE RIVALS
Chelsea will have a lot on their plate come next season. A return to Europe adds another competition to fight for. And they also have the Premier League title to defend, adding more pressure to this squad of champions.
Meanwhile, the Manchester clubs have spent extravagantly to launch a stronger push for the title, and Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal also look to be improving their teams. As the top of the table gets more competitive, Chelsea will have to get better at taking points off of their direct rivals if they want to repeat their title-winning efforts.
A potential positive for Chelsea is that Tottenham will be playing next season at Wembley Stadium, where they are known to struggle. Also, Manchester United and most likely Liverpool will be returning to the Champions League, giving those teams the same distraction that Chelsea will face.
Looking at Chelsea’s fixtures for next season, they will have two rough periods where they will need to perform at their best against their title rivals to keep their momentum in the league.
Near the start of the season, Chelsea will have to face Spurs, Everton, Arsenal, and Manchester City within the space of about a month. Getting out of that period without too many dropped points will be an excellent start for Chelsea and a sign of good things to come.
Then, towards the late middle of the season, they will face both Manchester clubs back-to-back away from home. This is a crucial point in the season, especially if Chelsea are still in Europe. The aim will be to limit damages so that they do not slip up in a possible title race.
Chelsea, for the most part, have the same strong team they won the league with, and a very tactically skilled manager who can lead them in multiple competitions. If they avoid too many injury issues and can take points off of their title rivals, then Chelsea stand an excellent chance at keeping their spot at the top of the table.
With that being said, it is incredibly difficult to defend a league title and many of their rivals have paid to bolster their squads. Overall, Chelsea have the quality to remain in the top 2 of the league.
Final Prediction: 2nd Place