It’s certainly the beginning of a new era at Stamford Bridge. West London is beginning to sing a new tune and it’s all because of Chelsea’s latest Italian acquisition, Antonio Conte.
And there are so many aspects to his introduction that have Blue spirits raised. The Italian has installed a new attitude among the side, which is the key to their success.
Chelsea don’t have 11 talented players, but one dedicated unit of soldiers. Conte beats the drum on the sideline and his players march to that exact beat.
The tactics are there as well. The ability for Chelsea to put so much pressure on West Ham, while also inviting them to keep the ball in their own half was nothing short of brilliant.
The Blues forced the Hammers inside and with all of Chelsea’s midfielders waiting in the middle of the park, it caused turnovers.
Chelsea looked strong in the first half. It’s exactly the type of start that fans would want under a new manager.
The Blues are clearly benefitting from the change in formation.
Matic looks completely reinvented in his new position. Not having to be the sole protector in the midfield, he is free to move forward and provide pressure higher up the pitch.
Kante is reinventing the way the Blues defend. He is more successful at shielding the backline because of his pure pace.
Tactically, Conte has set the Blues fullbacks up well. He is sending them forward to help in attack. This has a two-pronged effect on the match.
First and foremost, it gives Chelsea more options and width going forward. Oscar has been able to move in and out of pockets knowing that his full backs are providing width.
The real effect is showing through when West Ham wins the ball back. There wingers and outside midfielders have to track back to mark Chelsea’s full backs moving forward. This means that when the Hammers regain possession, they don’t have many options up the pitch.
It’s created a situation where Andy Carroll, West Ham’s lone striker, is being thoroughly isolated. He’ll have Terry and Cahill behind, with Kante putting pressure as well.
Where Chelsea need to do better is create more opportunities going forward. The possession is there and Chelsea need to capitalize on that by creating and converting chances.
Eden Hazard had a great look at goal in the first half, breaking through on one of his marauding runs forward. Furthermore, Willian had a free kick opportunity just before half that was parried over the bar by Adrian.
Ivanovic had a snap shot in the box turned away at the near post, a good decision by the Serbian to shoot.
A big surprise in the starting lineup was Oscar’s inclusion over Cesc Fabregas. What is almost even more surprising is how strong Chelsea’s Brazilian looked. The hope is that it’s not another false dawn.
However, he looked good moving forward, in and out of space and even managed to create a chance where he was almost awarded a penalty.
If he continues to perform this strongly, it would make sense for him to enjoy a continued run in the side.
Conte was always an admirer of the Brazilian at Juventus and maybe he’s the man to finally help Chelsea’s No. 8 get the most out of his potential.
Chelsea started the second half much like they ended the first. High pressure by Chelsea’s full backs, which lead to a penalty being awarded to the Blues, Azpilicueta drawing the call.
Interestingly enough, it seems that Conte has restored Hazard as Chelsea’s penalty taker. Oscar had taken penalties for the Blues in the preseason.
According to Hazard himself, Oscar asked to take the penalty and the Belgian said “no sorry, it’s my turn.”
However, Hazard was chosen and buried the penalty centrally into the upper netting. It is a great sign that the Belgian was on the score sheet early on this season, essentially vindicating a strong performance from the Hazard.
The second half would prove to be more interesting as West Ham were able to equalize midway through the half. It was a bit of a fluke but still a cause of concern for the Blues.
It was more of a testament to anything happening in the Premier League than Chelsea playing particularly poor.
What happened after the goal was much more convincing for Chelsea. They were able to quickly switch formations into a 4-2-4, with two strikers and two wingers.
West Ham was unable to cope with the different formation and it showed. Moses and Pedro injected fresh pace on the wings in place of Willian and Hazard. Additionally, Batshuayi looked ready to go.
His introduction allowed Chelsea to play with two strikers. He is physical and his hold up play, coupled with his aerial ability allowed Chelsea different opportunities to attack.
Diego Costa opened his scoring account early on, playing the hero of the match.
He picked his head up on the play, saw the hole and fired past Adrian. And the only thing more encouraging that Costa’s goal was Conte’s reaction to the goal. He literally leaped into the air and ran into the stands to celebrate with his fans.
That moment looks to be the sign of what is to come in West London. The hope is that Chelsea build on this.
The signs look good. If they continue to improve, potentially add a few more players before the transfer window closes, the Blues absolutely deserve to be a part of the title conversation.