Can Antonio Conte revive Chelsea's fortunes after a miserable 2015/16 season?
After one of, if not the, worst Premier League title defence since its inception, Chelsea looked a club completely out of sorts throughout the entirety of last season. A Sunday league inspired defensive unit, a former player of the year forgetting how to play football and a club doctor getting in the neck for doing her job all led to the downfall of Jose Mourinho, with Chelsea wheeling out crisis specialist in chief Guus Hiddink. Results did improve, just, and the blues picked up the draw specialists mantel, finishing an uninspiring 10th. Whilst they did effectively end arch rivals Tottenham’s title bid, that’s all the fans had to cheer. So where now for the west Londoners?
They go into the season with a renewed sense optimism following on from Antonio Conte’s Italy exceeding expectations at Euro 2016. With philosophies of hard work and a solid defensive unit, Conte may well be a throwback for Chelsea fans who were so used to watertight defences during the Mourinho and Ancelotti eras. The Italian’s biggest success came in Serie A where he built the current Juventus team from the ground up and won three Serie A titles, one of which was won unbeaten, as well as two domestic cups. All promising signs for Chelsea fans and the bookies agree, with the manager just 8/1 to win LMA manager of the year and 8/13 for a top 4 finish, which is surely the realistic target.
Continuing the theme of a solid defence, Chelsea have signed one of the players of the year last year in N’Golo Kante, who will add some much needed energy and defensive fight in the middle of the park. Solid central defender Leonardo Bonnuci or at least someone of his elk, looks an absolute must buy for the blues this summer. Bonnuci, who has worked with Conte at Juventus and Italy is as big as 7/1 to join to Chelsea (a great bet!) and is the one Chelsea want, as defensive options across Europe look few and far between. Perhaps the lack of Champions League may deter top level defenders. Other recruit Michy Batshuayi looks a promising striker and will provide stiff competition for Diego Costa, who is the centre of transfer speculation himself.
The Stamford Bridge faithful will all be aware of Eden Hazard’s return to form, backing up his improved displays at the backend of last season with an energetic Euro 2016. The Belgian is a tasty 66/1 to be top scorer this season and many experts are tipping Hazard to flourish under Conte who made Giaccherini look a world beater!
Chelsea are as long as 13/2 to win the Premier League next year, hardly surprising judging by the managerial talent that is now gracing the Manchester clubs. The Premier League ranks highly in unpredictability this year, so a small bet at that price looks decent value. To win their opening three games (West Ham at home, Watford away and Burnley at home) is priced at 5/2 and is the one I am backing at this stage.