It was one of the finest performances ever seen from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, against a team managed by it’s former and possibly greatest ever manager.
Mourinho’s return to the club that had sacked him 10 months ago was a nightmare as Chelsea turned up the style and took no prisoners as they thrashed Manchester United 4-0 to go to 4th place on the table. Here are 4 talking points after a masterclass from Conte’s Chelsea.
In A Special Place
Needless to say, Jose Mourinho’s long awaited return to Stamford Bridge didn’t go to well…for him. But it was clear that there was no animosity between the Chelsea fans and the Portuguese gaffer. After all, one simply cannot ‘delete’ 8 major titles, which include 3 Premier League titles spread across 2 spells. He is arguably the most important Chelsea manager in history, given that his arrival kick-started the Abramovich era and his legacy helped propel the Blues to the status of being a European superpower.
That is before last season, where he is accused by many of single-handedly ending Chelsea’s European stay and nearly getting them relegated. It was a season that left the world in shock and awe, and ultimately the only surprising aspect about his sacking was that a usually trigger happy Abramovich waited so long.
However, Mourinho did have the full support of the Chelsea faithful and they sang his name in nearly every game for the rest of the season. He received a warm welcome on his arrival where a few hundred of the Blues’ faithful lined up to greet him as he was exiting from the Manchester United team bus.
But after that, over the course of the game, he had to endure chants of “You’re not special anymore” from the home fans, whilst watching his team get dismantled. That was followed by “Sacked in the morning” when the score was 4-0. But then, towards the very end, as if to show he was still in their hearts, there was that familiar chanting of “Jose Mourinho” ringing across Stamford Bridge.
Kante & Matic Here To Stay, For Now
There was a lot of debate earlier in the season for which two players ought to start in the middle of the park alongside Kante. For a while, it seemed as if Oscar was putting in fairly decent performances, while Fabregas was making his claim for a start with impressive cameo performances. Matic seemed to start most of the matches alongside Oscar when Chelsea were still using the 4-1-4-1 formation, but the cracks in midfield were made evident against Arsenal and Liverpool.
Now, in the absence of Oscar, Chelsea’s switch to the 3-4-3 since the turn of the month has paid dividends. Matic and Kante in the middle of the park for Chelsea allows for a much more mobile Kante to move forward and attack, with Matic the more permanent fixture in front of the defenders, providing cover for the attackers. This has worked wonders so far and Kante had one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt, getting a stunning goal to boot.
Matic, too, after a long time, has begun to look like his old self and those are extremely encouraging signs for the future, which is in no small part due to Antonio Conte. Unless Fabregas can add a new dimension to his game, his Chelsea future for now under Antonio Conte looks non-existent, unless we someday get to see the Italian’s fabled 3-5-2 formation at Stamford Bridge.
Three For Chelsea, At The Back
If there were any doubts before, it is now clear that the Conte era will see Chelsea play with 3 defenders at the back, even if it’s not going to be Cahill, Azpilicueta and Luiz for too long. The return of Kurt Zouma and John Terry will likely add more stability to that backline, but with the way things are as they stand, the fans and Conte will be extremely pleased with what they see.
Allowing the likes of Moses and Alonso to bomb forward and help in attack allows more opportunities to create chances going forward. With Matic and Kante in front of the back three, there is ample cover for the defence as well. Sacrificing a man in defence has seen the Blues’ keep a clean sheet in every match they’ve used this formation in.
Luiz, Azpilicueta and Cahill all put in superb shifts last night and barring Luiz’s yellow card for nearly breaking Fellaini’s knee, it was a flawless performance that is sure to boost their confidence. On the other hand, it seems as if Branislav Ivanovic may have to get used to spending extended periods of time on the bench, unless can he push for a place at center back.
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
It was a typically wonderful display from Antonio Conte on the touchline. Much like Mourinho 10 years ago, the Italian was screaming and barking orders to his team from the start to the finish. And by ‘finish’, not after Chelsea scored their third goal via Eden Hazard or even their fourth through N’golo Kante. The Italian demanded that his team kept fighting till the very end.
Conte is known for living every moment of the game through his players, and expects the fans to do so as well. Conte celebrated every one of Chelsea’s goals with equal fervor. And like he’s reminded us before, he used to be a player himself, so he certainly knows how. The willingness to fight and confidence in their abilities to do so till the very end is something that we’ve begun to see once again this season.
This was especially clear in matches against West Ham, Watford and Leicester City, where the blues nabbed victories at the very end. It’s one of the changes Conte has been able to bring in, and despite the confidence shattering results of September, this win could do wonders for morale in that regard.
Despite his side’s 4-0 lead, Conte was wildly yelling at every player he could name to get back into position, move upfront, mark a player as long as he just wasn’t standing still. Even in the last 2 minutes he was demanding the fans to keep showing their support for the men who had put up one of the best performances of football ever seen at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s demand of fighting till the very end is something that every Chelsea player will have to get used to doing once again.