Top of the table at Christmas
11 straight wins.
A talented, fiery manager on the touchline.
Things are looking good for Chelsea.
You would be forgiven if the above reminded you of September 2009, when Jose Mourinho guided the club to the Premier League title.
That was when Chelsea last won 11 games on the trot, a club record which was equaled today.
However, Mourinho is no longer in the dugout.
He has been replaced by Antonio Conte, who has so far exhibited many of the same traits which made the Portuguese manager so successful in his first stint at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace this afternoon was their 11th consecutive victory after a difficult start to the season, and Conte’s side are now the favourites for the Premier League title.
Antonio Conte’s side have scored 25 goals in that period, and have conceded just two (one of which was an own goal).
Hindsight is a great gift, but it seems laughable now that several betting companies suspended betting on the Italian’s sacking earlier this season.
It took time for Conte’s philosophy and approach to translate to the pitch, but Chelsea now look a formidable side.
How has the 47 year old transformed Chelsea into title contenders in a matter of months?
Conte’s summer transfer dealings were excellent.
Marcos Alonso and David Luiz have been massive additions.
Luiz appears to have matured as a player, and Jamie Redknapp today claimed that the Brazilian “is the best centre back in the league at the moment.” The former PSG centre back has always had bundles of ability, but he seems to have cut out the erratic mistakes which underlined his performances earlier in his career.
Alonso has been solid defensively, and offers plenty going forward too.
N’Golo Kanté has transferred his exceptional form from Leicester to London, and £30 million was a bargain price for him in the current market. He is the closest thing to a modern Claude Makelele, and he’s added an extra dimension to Chelsea’s midfield.
Michy Batshuayi has had limited game time, but big things are also expected of the young striker.
An impermeable defence
The players took time to adapt to Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 formation, but have now mastered the system.
Conte’s side relish defending, and are ruthless, inventive and clinical on the counter attack.
This is a manager who is a defensive genius, and he seems to make his players love defending.
His Italy team were superb at the back, and he has transformed Chelsea into an extremely difficult side to beat. All of Chelsea’s previous Premier League triumphs have been built on a solid defence, and Conte has made his current one watertight.
Behind that brilliantly drilled defence is Thibaut Courtois, a world class goalkeeper. His save against Sunderland midweek was phenomenal, and Chelsea’s top four rivals Liverpool and Man City are both lacking a top drawer ‘keeper.
Chelsea have won their last three league games 1-0 without being at their best, but the ability to hold leads is crucial to winning a title, as Leicester demonstrated in the closing weeks of last season.
Getting the best out of his players
The Italian also deserves immense credit for getting the best out of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa after the duo endured a miserable season last year.
Jose Mourinho seemed to have lost the dressing room before his dismissal last season, but there’s no doubt that the players are playing for their new manager.
Both players are enjoying stellar seasons, and Costa is the Premier League’s top scorer.
Victor Moses has finally come of age, and has been a revelation as a right wing back. The Nigerian international was loaned out by a host of Chelsea managers, but Conte has instantly gotten the best out of the 26 year old.
Pedro has also improved dramatically, and Nemanja Matic is also rediscovering his best form under the former Juventus boss.
Jose Mourinho won titles at Chelsea playing in that fashion, and Conte could claim titles of his own if the early signs are anything to go by.