Don’t worry, we will pump the breaks here. I realize we are only 3 games into the Premier League season and 4 for the entire campaign. However, the Conte era is off to a bang.
4 games, 4 wins. That’s about as perfect as Chelsea fans could have hoped for at the beginning of Conte’s reign.
However, where there is success, there is inherent frustration, which centers around this simple concept: Conte has added two players. Why is he having success where Mourinho failed with almost the same team?
Now the critics to this line of thinking will argue that the introduction of N’Golo Kante has added a completely new dimension to Chelsea’s squad and they wouldn’t be wrong. He has succeeded where Matic failed last season.
How could Mourinho have known that the Serbian midfielder would suffer one of the largest falls from grace in footballing history in one season?
However, when one takes a closer look, the writing on the wall was there. Chelsea were a much worse team in the second half of their title winning season than the first. The title helped paper over the cracks of a crumbling organization.
The workload that Matic was tasked with was execessive and exhaustive. It was only a matter of time before it became too much. The overreliance on the same back four also proved to be detrimental.
However, the major reason for Conte’s early success and the reason a great manager like Mourinho failed in the long run, is Conte’s ability to be flexible, where Mourinho’s stubbornness got in the way.
So far, Chelsea have had a variety of different looks this season. We have seen the 4-1-4-1, with Kante in front of the defense and Oscar and Matic playing in the centre.
Furthermore, we’ve seen the Blues sport the 4-3-3, with Oscar and Matic pinched in and the outside midfielders performing more like wingers.
Conte even changed the formation in-game, to a 4-2-4 with two strikers, two wingers and two centre defensive midfielders.
This ability to change the formation, especially mid-game, is why Chelsea are beginning to look like a formidable side.
If one structure doesn’t have Chelsea in front, Conte can simply change the dynamic of a match by realigning his players.
We even saw it in his first two matches in the Premier League.
The Blues had started both matches in a 4-1-4-1, though the formation began to look tiresome as the game progressed.
In need of a different look, Conte brought on Batshuayi and 2 new wingers, namely Victor Moses. In the second match, it was the introduction of Fabregas that changed the context of the game.
Chelsea immediately played a 4-2-2-2 or a 4-2-4 with 2 wingers and 2 strikers.
With the Spaniard’s ability to influence the game from deep on the pitch, Moses’s tenacity to work on the sidelines and Batshuayi’s speed and strength up top, Chelsea looked like a completely different team.
The effect was maximum points from both affairs. The ability to change formations during a match has proven Chelsea to be dangerous.
We have seen everything this season from Matic as a box-to-box midfielder, Loftus-Cheek lending his hand at striker and even Moses being recalled to the side.
The results have been extraordinary thus far. Conte has turned the same stagnant players into a squad with options. Where Chelsea seemed thin at certain areas, (they still are at defense), all of a sudden they have reinforcements.
The changes in formation means that the Blues have a wealth of alternatives in the centre of the park, along with the wing and up top.
Instead of talking about the potential homecoming of Juan Cuadrado and Oscar’s sale to Juventus, we have seen the Brazilian keep Chelsea’s playmaker, Fabregas out of the starting XI, where Cuadrado is basically a Juventus player yet again.
Instead of talking about the shortcomings of Loic Remy, we are celebrating Batshuyai, Loftus-Cheek, and Hazard as potential deputies to Diego Costa. With the two striker system, we even have the luxury to see most of them on the field at the same time.
Loftus-Cheek is beginning to look a true Chelsea player, with his brilliant performance mid-week against Bristol Rovers. It seems the centre forward position suits him, as opposed to the attacking midfield role that Mourinho and Hiddink seemed to play him.
It appears that most of what Mourinho struggled with in his time at Stamford Bridge is being corrected by Conte in his first two months.
The Italian has Chelsea fans singing again, passionate during games and trusting their manager to guide them through the more challenging times.
It’s early yet, but Chelsea’s newest Italian has us believing that good times can be forthcoming in the Blues future.
Throw a new left back and centre back into the picture and Chelsea can be a title winner by the end of the season.
Where Mourinho failed to keep fans and players believing, Conte has them marching to the beat of his own drum. And instead of the rigid side we saw under Mourinho, the Italian has Chelsea playing with tenacity, versatility, and passion.
From disagreements with medical staff and dressing room dress downs, Conte may be exactly what the doctor ordered.