He’s found success basically everywhere he’s been, but Antonio Conte is set to embark upon a new adventure this season in England as he gets set to revamp Chelsea.
All of Conte’s previous successes have come in Italy, both with the national team and at the club level, but now, the 47-year-old will now have to show that his creative mind is ready to compete with the rest of the big managers in England’s top flight.
While the biggest criticism of Conte this summer was not addressing the backline, the few signings that he and the Blues have made should be game changers. The additions of N'Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi give Chelsea another dimension in the midfield and attacking third, respectively, while complimenting the current crop of players already afforded to the new Italian manager.
Those signings do give the Blues a much-needed boost after last campaign’s struggles, however, the London side isn’t the only one to have made a significant overhaul this summer. Manchester City and Manchester United were the biggest spenders in the transfer market, leaving Conte a bit more responsible for maneuvering around his current squad.
With talented attacking players such as Eden Hazard, Willian and Diego Costa already guaranteed starting positions because of successful track records, the inclusion of Kante from the start and likely Batshuayi off the bench provides the Blues with a good combination of talent and depth.
Willian, in particular, is coming off of a very impressive campaign for the Blues, and will likely continue to play a major factor in the team’s attack due to his superb technical abilities, as well as his innate sense of finding the back of the net from both open play and set piece situations.
Defensively is where things become a bit eery though for the Blues.
Veteran centerback John Terry will hold down things on the backline, while likely being paired with either Gary Cahill or Kurt Zouma, once the latter resumes full health following a devastating knee injury from a season ago.
The good news for Conte is that he has been provided with several promising young options in the central defense, which starts with Zouma. From there, the squad also features Jake Clarke-Salter, Michael Hector and U.S. defender Matt Miazga, although it’s likely none will feature regularly unless the team is hit with injuries.
However, the team doesn’t have the luxury of having as many options at the outside back position, which could cause problems for the backline. Branislav Ivanovic will likely get the nod at right back, while Cezar Azpilicueta is projected to provide help on the opposite side. After those two players, though, the Blues don’t feature many choices. Kenedy provided a solid spark both offensively and on the defensive end last season, however, the Brazilian youngster is still too raw as a defender to throw him out against England’s best.
Meanwhile, English youngster Ola Aina has shown well during the team’s preseason run in, but the Under-21 defender needs more experience of his own before getting a consistent first-team go.
Despite being known for being one of the few managers at a top club to utilize the 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formations, Conte will likely have to stick to a more traditional 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 given Chelsea’s current personnel.
The current squad of players that Conte has at his disposal gives Chelsea an undoubted chance to be considered among the favorites to win the Premier League in 2016/17. With about six other clubs in the mix though for the title, though, the Italian has his work cut out for him in managing the team over the long season.
While Champions League football is something the Blues will be looking to get back to for next season, Conte does at least have the luxury of going all out for the PL and FA Cup, while other teams have to deal with the riggers of European competition on top of their domestic obligation.Follow @MattReedFutbol