Is this the beginning of something special at Chelsea?
It is perhaps no surprise that Chelsea wrapped up the 2016/2017 Premier League campaign in some style, with an emphatic 5-1 win against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge providing, even more, reason for Antonio Conte and the players to reap the fruits of their labour as they lifted the league title. The fact that the visitors took a surprise early lead was merely like kicking a beehive, as Chelsea simply stepped up their game and put in the sort of performance that proved why we are deserving champions.
Our success could be made even greater if Chelsea manage to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, and with the Gunners facing a potential defensive crisis, there is every chance that the Blues will become eight-time winners of the most prestigious domestic cup in football; it would also be our first FA Cup since 2012 – something that adds even more incentive for Conte and his players to do the job at Wembley. Bookmaker Ratings may consider Chelsea favourites, even if the manager has already started the mind games with Arsene Wenger by suggesting that we are the underdogs, but it is difficult not to feel like there is something special beginning at Stamford Bridge under Conte, irrespective of what happens at Wembley.
Anybody who thought it was remotely possible that Chelsea would win the Premier League title, let alone be on course for a potential double, after what happened last season would have been ridiculed, but it is testament to the impact that Conte has made since arriving at the club that the almost impossible is now just one game away from becoming reality. He has instantly won fans over by incorporating a style of play that has unquestionably got the very best from the players at his disposal, and while some question why the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were unable the same level of performances last season, they can ultimately be forgiven now that Chelsea have bounced back in the best way possible. The back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal undoubtedly provided the turning point of our title-winning season; Conte enforced his own philosophies after allowing the team to prove themselves under the previous system. The fact that Chelsea then won their following thirteen leagues in a row and recorded thirty victories in the Premier League in total – breaking Jose Mourinho’s record in the process – tells you all you need to know about what Conte has achieved in his first season in England.
The best thing about Chelsea at present is that things can only get better. Roman Abramovich will undoubtedly back his manager with all the funds he needs to make any number of strong signings that are required to not only remain competitive with a number of rivals who are likely to spend huge sums of money this summer but also maintain Chelsea’s position as the team to beat next season. Conte deserves to be backed to the hilt after N’Golo Kante, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso proved to be big hits, and although Michy Batshuayi has struggled to hit the same heights, it was his goal at the Hawthorns that secured the title for Chelsea in a 1-0 win against West Brom.
Time will tell as to who Conte will identify as his prime targets, but with his team potentially competing on up to four fronts during the 2017/2018 campaign, it is essential that Chelsea strengthens in terms of quantity and quality. Big name arrivals at the Bridge would certainly encourage fans to check out Bookmaker Ratings for the best place to back Chelsea to retain the title for the first time since Mourinho was in charge between 2005 and 2006, and with the likes of Marco Verratti, Jack Butland and Romelu Lukaku amongst the names linked with a move to the Bridge this summer, it promises to be a very exciting summer of activity.
Abramovich will certainly have his eye on the Champions League as a great opportunity for the club to re-assert themselves alongside Europe’s elite sides, but given how Chelsea held onto top spot in the Premier League from October onwards and finished as much as 15 points ahead of Manchester City in third, becoming the dominant force in England may be Conte’s primary ambition. He has already alluded to the fact that his team cannot afford to become complacent and relax after this season’s success; it was ultimately the root of everything that went wrong last season, but in Conte we have a manager that is always striving for better from his team and will not settle for any drop in performance levels, attitude or work rate. Having someone in charge that continues to get the very best from a team that are firmly behind him can only bode well for Chelsea, and irrespective of what happens in the FA Cup Final, Conte has proven that he is more than capable of heralding a new dawn at the club.