11 games, 11 wins, 25 goals scored, 2 goals conceded, from 8th place and 8 points off the pace to 6 points clear at the top of the table. This is, of course, Chelsea’s record since Conte changed to a 3-4-3 formation. These results are impressive regardless, however, they become even more impressive when the quality of the opponents are taken into account. On this stellar run the Londoners have beaten, Leicester, Man Utd, Spurs, Everton, Southampton and Man City amongst other tough challenges. Formations are, of course, merely a starting point; this piece seeks to analyse the finer details of Conte’s system and why it has been so successful.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City hosted Arsenal in the Premier League’s 17th game week on Sunday evening. City came into the game with criticism surrounding the team with the performance in the defeat at Leicester in particular raising doubts amongst the media over Pep’s suitability to English football. Arsenal however had been in strong form and were eager to show the midweek defeat at Goodison Park was a mere blip and not the start of an annual meltdown.
Guardiola’s Manchester City hosted Conte’s Chelsea in arguably the most eagerly anticipated Premier League clash of the season thus far. There were several reasons behind the excitement; with the coaches being two of the strongest tacticians in the league and the two sides being firmly in the title race. What followed was a high class, high intensity football game befitting of its expectations.
Since Santi Cazorla suffered another Achilles injury in October, Arsenal have stuttered through a run of four draws (and three wins) in seven games. Much has already been written about how the Gunners struggle in possession but not as much attention has been paid to the struggle Arsène Wenger’s side have out of possession.
An open field, hundreds of one-on-ones and a few slapstick moments–that’s what the North London looked like on Sunday afternoon. As Arsenal’s level dropped in the second half, a 1-1 draw left head coach Arsène Wenger frustrated. Even though Tottenham have now gone seven games without a win in all competitions, picking up one point at the Emirates gives Mauricio Pochettino a desperately needed breather.
David Moyes and his struggling Sunderland side hosted Arsenal in the early Saturday kick-off. Billy Jones returned to the starting XI in place of Javi Manquillo, with Adnan Januzaj kept on the bench. Despite returning to fitness, there was no starting place for Olivier Giroud as Wenger opted to stick with Alexis Sanchez as his centre forward.
Klopp’s Liverpool hosted Mourinho’s United at Anfield on Monday night in the highest profile Premier league clash of the weekend. With their blistering, free scoring form Liverpool headed into the game as heavy favourites against a labouring United side. However the fans and media alike were all too aware of Mourinho’s propensity to upset the odds to write off the Red devils.
After Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic challenged City with their pressing game in the midweek draw, Pochettino’s Spurs took full advantage and clinical first-half finishing saw them administer the first defeat of Pep Guardiola’s City reign.
Guardiola’s City travelled to Wales in their 10th game of the season as they looked to make it a perfect 10 wins from 10 at the start of the season. After their previous league game Guardiola credited Bournemouth as the Premier League side who had caused them the most trouble with their use of the ball and Swansea could be expected to pose a similar threat. Swansea meanwhile were aiming to avoid back to back league losses and a 5 game winless streak as they aimed to ease their relegation fears.
Manchester United hosted their local rivals Manchester City in the 172nd edition of the Manchester derby. Although the fixture is always eagerly anticipated, the additions of Mourinho and Guardiola to their respective teams created a unique level of tension and excitement.