Throughout his early tenure, there has been several reasons to admire Antonio Conte’s brilliance.
The way the Italian handled his preseason, given it was shortened by his EURO 2016 commitments, was a good start.
From that point on, we have been provided with moment after moment where Conte’s handling of a situation has deserved praise.
The best example and the most well documented will be the Italians formation change to the 3-4-3. Under this change, Chelsea took 39 of a possible 42 points. There are not many more successful runs in football.
The way the Italian has handled individual players has been just as convincing. Getting Diego Costa to perform as the league’s finest player is no small task.
The re-emergence of Eden Hazard has also been extraordinary. Additionally, the way he has manipulated several defensive personalities to his liking is equally as impressive.
So it is no surprise that the Italian has achieved yet another masterclass in his early tenure, by recalling Dutch International Nathan Ake, who was on loan to Bournemouth.
Why is this move so special?
First, it’s important to recognize the context. All we’ve heard about Chelsea’s transfer strategy over the last year is their need for defensive reinforcements.
Thus, Chelsea have been linked to several big name CBs who would likely cost a pretty penny (i.e. Virgil van Dijk).
So what options do the Blues have?
Kurt Zouma is on the road to recovery, playing a full match in the FA Cup against Peterborough United. Furthermore, they have the aging John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic available off the bench.
Finally, Chelsea can also call on Ole Aina, a young academy prospect who is definitely good enough to play some minutes for Conte in the second half of the season.
Bringing Nathan Ake home gives Chelsea another option, but someone who’s ready to perform now. Zouma must be eased back into the squad, where Aina is definitely not ready for a large role.
Terry has proven that he is not best suited in the back 3 and Ivanovic has been a liability for large parts of the last 2 seasons.
Conversely, Ake has shown he can handle the Premier League’s toughest opposition. The young Dutchman plays with a swagger that made him a first choice player by Eddie Howe during the second half of his time at Bournemouth.
So apart from saving Chelsea money, what else makes Ake’s recall a brilliant move.
The young Dutchman is a lot of things and versatile tops that list. He can play in the defensive midfield, at centre back, left back and I am certain we will see him play wingback as well.
His ability to play all over the pitch makes him an asset to Conte with the ability to introduce him off the bench to change the context of a game. If he starts, the Italian manager can use the player’s versatility to affect the way Chelsea play.
Overall, Ake’s return to Stamford Bridge is a masterclass by Conte. He’s gotten it absolutely right.
With Ake leading the way, along with players like Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, and Aina, the hope is that the youth academy will begin to funnel more effectively into the Chelsea First Team.
Tyler Strauss is a senior writer for CFCNet. Follow him on Twitter @tyler_strauss_.