After going four-for-four in all competitions to start life under Antonio Conte, Chelsea has drawn Swansea City and lost at home to Liverpool.
Normally that wouldn’t be a huge cause for alarm around Stamford Bridge, a stadium which has seen the Blues compete for domestic and European honors on a regular basis.
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Coming on the heels of last season’s moribund start under Jose Mourinho, one that cost the boss his job despite winning the Premier League the previous year, warning bells sting the ears a bit easier this year.
Conte’s drawn praise from many of his players, including Eden Hazard. The mercurial playmaker has looked renewed under the Italian, and called Conte a “top guy” in a recent interview with Chelsea TV.
With Leicester City up on Tuesday in the EFL Cup and then a London Derby with Arsenal at the weekend, Hazard and company need to put a stop to their poor play. With no European competition this season, Chelsea has a chance to make an unencumbered run toward the Premier League title.
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But this is also a group comprised of many of the players who played so soft, many accused of quitting, when things got tough under Mourinho last season.
“Everybody had a bad season last season and we don’t want to do the same,” Hazard said. “It was not good for anybody, for the fans or for the club. We know we didn’t play well and we have to do better this season.”
Chelsea finished 10th last season, and didn’t even finish a month in the top half of the table under March. Given the 2-1 win over West Ham isn’t as impressive considering the Irons’ poor start, Liverpool was the club’s first test of the season.
It failed, relatively speaking. But the Blues are still in very good shape and have two chances this week to make a statement that life genuinely has changed at the Bridge.
Conte has the faith of his players right now, sure, but it bears monitoring how those same names react in times of trouble moving forward. This, on a small scale, is one of them.