Antonio Conte’s first season at Chelsea has been one of unprecedented success. The only real disappointment of the entire season was the 2-1 loss to West Ham in the fourth round of the EFL Cup, as they cruised to Premier League glory and only narrowly missed out on an FA Cup trophy alongside.
Nevertheless, the season has come to a close and the Italian mastermind has a new but not unfamiliar task ahead of him: European football. The fixture list suddenly looks a lot more packed and the reliable 3-4-3 formation deployed by Conte will come under threat from a different level of teams, meaning it’s time to shake things up at the Bridge.
The former Juventus boss spared no time in making his intentions clear this summer, as it took only days to emerge that there was friction between himself and the Chelsea board over budget, while Diego Costa revealed he’d been informed via text that he was to find himself a new club for the coming season.
Since then, Chelsea have raised over £60million thanks to the departures of Juan Cuadrado, Asmir Begovic, Nathan Ake, Christian Atsu and Bertrand Traore, and with the futures of Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa hanging in the balance, there could yet be plenty more where that came from.
At a club like Chelsea though, it is unlikely that someone walks out of the exit door without a fresh face coming in the other direction, and the Blues seem to have their targets nailed down.
According to The Telegraph, the Londoners have identified Alex Sandro, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko as their primary transfer targets, with Conte also confident that Romelu Lukaku will rejoin the club from Everton.
Though a move for an additional centre back has been mooted – with Kostas Manolas, Virgil Van Dijk, and Leonardo Bonucci all rumoured to be on the radar – any plans to replace Cesc Fabregas appear to have been shelved, and subsequent interest in PSG’s Marco Verratti and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez dropped.
It may come as a surprise to some that Chelsea don’t seem to be in the market for a new right sided player, as Conte looks to improve upon Marcus Alonso at left wing back but apparently not on Victor Moses at right wing back. Though both Pedro and Willian have been used on the right at various times this past season, the Blues are wise to be reportedly monitoring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s situation at Arsenal, after the England international produced one of his best spells with the Gunners at wing back at the back end of the season.
So how might Chelsea line-up under Conte for the coming campaign?
Enjoying a rejuvenated spell in modern football, Conte’s 3-4-3 has made Chelsea look unplayable at times. No doubt the formation is used to shield weaknesses in the side – packing the centre of defence and allowing wing backs to become extra men both in attack and defence – but it has been so effective it took Chelsea to the title with plenty of time to spare. With Courtois sure to start in goal, Rudiger, Luiz and Azpilicueta could become the back three of choice after some mistakes from Gary Cahill last term. Oxlade-Chamberlain could start on the right of midfield if his move materialises, with Kante and Bakayoko bossing the centre and Alex Sandro on the left. Pedro and Hazard would likely continue as the inside forwards, with Lukaku replacing Costa through the centre.
In a more common system, Conte can still have both the reinforced structure and the attacking prowess of his favoured 3-4-3. Courtois between the sticks, Azpilicueta at right back, Luiz and Rudiger in the centre, and Alonso at left back. Kante and Bakayoko holding the midfield, Willian on the right, Hazard in the middle, Sandro on the left, all supporting Lukaku up top.
Again, more common in modern day football, less common with Conte. Courtois in goal, Moses at right back, the experienced Cahill and Luiz at centre back, Alonso on the left. Fabregas, Kante, and Bakayoko in the middle, with Hazard, Lukaku, and Sandro up top. Utilising the versatility of Alex Sandro allows for an imbalance of attack from Chelsea, and with a midfield packed with energy (and Fabregas) there could still be an attacking presence from the full backs.
How do you think Chelsea will line up most frequently next season?
Featured image curtesy of Sky Sports.