Chelsea dominated the Premier League during Antonio Conte’s first year in charge but their title defence started in disastrous fashion last weekend.
They lost 3-2 at home to a Burnley side that only won one away game in all of last season and ended the game with nine players on the pitch.
Conte has clearly been frustrated with the club’s transfer activity, or lack of it, and the Italian is now 1/3 to not win a trophy with Chelsea this season.
We’ve seen plenty of managers and players struggle to build on a successful first campaign, is Conte about to join them with second season syndrome?
The former Juventus boss did a remarkable job in his first year at the club, rebuilding morale after their awful 2015-16 campaign to take them back to the top of the table.
Conte initially set his Chelsea team up with a back four, to stick with what his players were used to, but he switched to three at the back after a woeful performance against Arsenal in September and it proved to be a masterstroke.
The 3-4-3 system made the most of the talent at his disposal and has now been imitated by many of the other teams in the division.
He has shown that he can be flexible and readjust his plans before. As teams become more familiar with facing Chelsea’s formation, he could pull another surprise out of the hat.
The squad will need to cope with Champions League football as well this year though, and it’s clear that they need more players.
Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakoyoko and Willy Cabellero are all good additions, but they are replacing outgoing players instead of improving the squad depth.
Conte is reported to want further additions in central defence, wing-back, central midfield and up front.
To make matters worse, Eden Hazard missed all of pre-season after breaking his ankle in June and isn’t expected back until September at the earliest.
Without their talisman, Chelsea could suffer from a lack of creativity, especially if Bakoyoko takes Cesc Fabregas’ place in the team when he’s fit.
Conte isn’t entirely blameless either. Chelsea may want to sell Diego Costa, but now they don’t even have him as an option as a result of the manager’s decision to tell the striker he was no longer needed by text in June.
There were signs that Conte wasn’t entirely happy at Stamford Bridge back in July. He signed a new contract that increased his wages, but notably it didn’t extend his deal past 2019.
That may not be too encouraging for his long-term future, but a few smart signings would put him in a good position to lead Chelsea to further success in the current campaign.
Conte has already shown that he’s a quality manager in his first year in England, now he just needs a squad that will to allow him to do so again.
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