Antonio Conte leads Chelsea back to EPL Royalty

"Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrates his sides first goal during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns on May 12, 2017 in West Bromwich, England." (Credit to 90Min.)
“Chelsea players celebrate clinching the 2016-17 English Premier League title after a 1-0 road win at West Bromwich Albion on Friday.” (Credit to Mirror UK.)

2015-16 was definitely a disappointing season for Chelsea F.C. who were coming off a league title the year prior. After racking up 87 points to their fifth ever league crown in 2014, Chelsea struggled to get much going the next season.

In 2015-16, Chelsea finished the campaign in tenth place with a record of 12-14-12. Jose Mourinho was fired in December after the team lost nine of its first 16 EPL fixtures that season, and Guus Hiddink served on an interim based until the end of the season.

April 2016 saw the news break that former Juventus and Italy National Team manager Antonio Conte would be the team’s new manager. Conte had led Juve to three Italian Serie A titles, and two SuperCoppa trophies.

With two matches to spare, Conte led Chelsea to their sixth top-flight title after a 1-0 road win at West Bromwich Albion on Friday. Substitute striker Michy Batshuayi scored the clinching goal after 82 minutes at the Hawthorns.

After a terrible season a year before, Conte deserves a huge amount of credit for the work he did this season. He became the fourth Italian manager to lift the Premier League title, but he turned Chelsea back into a threat not only in England but in Europe.

Their 76 goals this season are tops in the league, and their 29 goals allowed are good for third-best. Conte was also able to get the best two offensive players, back to their ability.

Playmaker Eden Hazard has 15 league goals and five assists this season. A huge reason for Chelsea’s inconsistency a year before was Hazard’s lack of ability to make an impact, but Conte easily got Hazard back to his world-class level. Striker Diego Costa led the team with 20 goals and brought physicality and aggressiveness to the Blues front-line.

However, several other players played a huge role in Chelsea’s resurgence this season. Veterans Gary Cahill and David Luiz former a strong partnership in the back-line, both earning spots in the P.F.A. Team of the Year. Wingbacks Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses both helped not only defensively, but in the team’s attacking strategy. The duo combined for 63 appearances in league-play, scoring nine goals and adding five assists.

Nemanja Matic added a defensive presence in the midfield, pairing with the signing of N’Golo Kante from defending champions, Leicester City. Cesc Fabregas could be relied to make a difference whenever called upon, leading the team with 11 assists. Winger Pedro proved that he could still play at a high level, scoring eight league goals and adding eight assists.

But most of all, Conte had this team buying into his beliefs. He was able to get every single player to believe into the system, and it showed on the pitch. As 2016 came to an end, Chelsea rolled up 13 league wins in a row, which truly proved their dominance.

Chelsea had the fewest amount of draws this season (3), racking up 28 league wins so far with two matches left to play. On the road, Chelsea had 42 points, seven more than the next best side (Manchester City). They sat second in the home table with a 15-0-2 record, five points less than Tottenham Hotspur. Oh by the way, they still can lift the F.A. Cup with a win over London rivals Arsenal on May 27th.

The main question will be; Can Chelsea compete for the league crown next season, with Champions League involvement also playing a factor? With Conte in charge, there is zero reason why they cannot compete for every piece of silverware next season.

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