Chelsea have emerged as the frontrunners for the Premier League title after back-to-back wins against rivals Tottenham and Manchester City. Antonio Conte has led a revival at Stamford Bridge and will deserve his status as one of the world’s best coaches if he manages to orchestrate a league title win in his first season in charge, especially considering the fractured nature of the club when he took over. Their run of form has been a result of a change in formation as Conte has moved to a 3-4-3 in recent months. Since the change, they have won all eight of their Premier League games, scoring 22 goals and conceding just twice.
They are now approaching an interesting period of the season as they have a busy schedule over Christmas and will need to make greater use of their squad. Since the change of formation, the side has been settled and every player has come to understand their defined role in the set-up. Conte will face a test over the coming weeks as he will need to make changes in order to keep his players fresh and avoid picking up any serious injuries.
Although Chelsea have been superb in recent weeks, there are still weaknesses in their squad that Conte will want to correct in January. It is important that he does as otherwise Chelsea could be found wanting later on in the season, especially if they continue with a 3-4-3 formation. Some of the roles in the 3-4-3 can only be carried out by certain types of players and Chelsea need to make sure that they have cover across the pitch if they want to finish the season as champions.
On Saturday, Cesc Fabregas came in for Nemanja Matic and it had an obvious effect on the defensive contribution of the midfield two. Fabregas doesn’t have the engine or the battling qualities of Matic and that showed. That said, the Spaniard played well in possession and played a major role in Chelsea’s first goal with a superb ball that released Diego Costa.
Conte will certainly be looking at potential midfield targets to add cover in the centre of the park, as he can’t rely on N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic playing every single game. One player that would be a very good addition and has already been linked to Chelsea since Conte took over is Radja Nainggolan. The Roma midfielder has both the defensive and attacking qualities to thrive in the formation that is being used by Chelsea. It is likely that he remains on the club’s radar and it is a transfer that could be done if Chelsea pay what is required. The Belgian would definitely be interested in a move to Stamford Bridge.
Another position that Conte will want to strengthen is his defence, as there is a lack of depth currently. Gary Cahill has made a number of mistakes this season and doesn’t look to be good enough for the long-term. Conte will want to bring in a more mobile and intelligent defender to start in a three-man defence. Kalidou Koulibaly will still be on the club’s list of targets, while young Englishmen Michael Keane and Ben Gibson could also be targeted. Although I expect the latter two to be summer targets to replace John Terry. The defence is a position that needs more depth, but Kurt Zouma is expected to return soon and he could be the perfect fit for the system. Whether a new signing comes in or not, I’d expect Gary Cahill to lose his place in the first eleven sooner rather than later.
They definitely look to be the best side in the Premier League at the moment and deserve their status as title favourites. However, a few new additions in January could provide the momentum needed for the Blues to carry on their good form. The change in formation has left the squad looking bare in some positions, especially defence, and that is why Conte will want to do some business at the beginning of 2017. Their recruitment looked rushed at times during the summer, but I’d expect a much better planned approach in future windows, starting in January. If they make the right additions, they will be clear favourites to lift the Premier League trophy in May.