At the beginning of his Chelsea stint, new head coach Antonio Conte only had one objective in mind: getting the club back on track after last season's disastrous performances. The work towards recovery started off well in August, with four straight wins, albeit just one clean sheet, in the 3-0 against Burnley.
It wasn't long before Chelsea were made to pay for defensive frailties. Starting with the 2-2 draw at Swansea City in September, Chelsea went on to lose two high-profile derby games back-to-back, to Liverpool and Arsenal, the latter a 3-0 trouncing by half-time.
After the loss to our North London rivals, which dropped Chelsea to 8th place in the league table, Conte reminded the fans of our primary objective, as well as the huge amount of work ahead of us to change fortunes for the better.
"We haven't got a magic wand to change the situation in two months, three months, four months. We don't forget the past. The past is there, it's very clear. We finished [in] 10th place last season."
"When you finish 10th, it means you have problems. We must change the situation and we must work hard together and we are doing this. At this moment, that's the most important thing: not to win, [or] to lose. But to understand that only through great work, hard work, we can fill the gap that now we have."
-Antonio Conte; Source: PA Sports
No magic wand?? Such lies!
The change in tactics from the 4-2-4 to the 3-4-3 shape made the team much more cohesive in every sector, and since our 2-0 win at Hull City on October 1st — our first full game in the new system — Chelsea have 6 wins and clean sheets in 6 Premier League matches, accumulating a +17 goal difference and adding 18 points to the previous 10. It's taken the Blues less than two months to climb 7 positions to the top of the table.
Conte sees the unanticipated achievement as a reward for the players' hard work, but he remains cognizant of the team's situation and the overall quality in the Premier League.
"I am particularly happy for the players that we sit atop of the table at the moment. It is not only a reward for our hard work, but also shows that we are on the right path."
"We should not forget that we were in a bad situation after we lost to Liverpool and Arsenal six weeks ago. It will not be easy to remain top of the table until the end of the season."
"This Premier League season is perhaps the most difficult one ever. We have to battle it out with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United. You do not have such excellence in any other league in the world."
In late September, tabloids were doing their best to sell the "PANIC!" shtick by claiming that Conte was already in the hot seat despite being in the job for barely two months. It all seems sillier now, as Conte looks to prove even more that the club made the right decision by choosing him as the new head coach.
"I want to show Chelsea that they made the right choice to appoint me for the next three years. That counts even more than winning titles. It has definitely helped me that we are not in Europe and that I had the entire team available all week when I had just started. It allowed me to work on the foundation."
"I started out with a 4-2-4 formation, just like at Bari, Siena and early on with Juventus. I then switched to 3-5-2 and eventually to 3-4-3 because it suits the team best. But Chelsea are a club that should always be in Europe."
-Antonio Conte; Source: FourFourTwo
The work towards European football — and beyond — continues.