We've seen Antonio Conte's Chelsea in action for 270 minutes now, and while we've been able to observe a few of the coach's new ideas in action (such as the emphasis on width), it's tough and perhaps even inadvisable to draw too many conclusions from just pre-season games (even if the last one, against Liverpool, was a friendly only by name). So we've had to largely rely on words and intentions, both from the coaching staff and the players, to set the scene and adjust our expectations.
But, in a little over two weeks, the new season will begin and it will be time for the words to stop and the action to take over. Actions do speak louder than words, after all.
"I like it if my team plays with great aggression and high intensity. I like to see that."
"We train to prepare for that because I want my team to have an identity. I want it so that if you see us, you recognise 'Oh, Chelsea are playing'. That is important for me, important for the club and the owner. Everywhere I have been I have worked at that. I always gave an identity to my teams."
"I am searching to transfer this to my players now, and I am pleased because I see a great attitude."
The question of identity strikes me as one of those boondoggles that seem to mean a lot in theory, but in reality, mean very little. With Mourinho, the answer to any such question was always that Chelsea had a "winning" mentality. But while Conte also places great emphasis on winning (as he pointed out after Chelsea lost to Rapid Vienna), he seems to place even greater emphasis on how the team go about winning and playing and showing the fans that they care. Work, work, work, fight, fight, fight — though it's not just all hustle and bustle; there's plenty of room for skill and creativity.
"I want to continue in this way because this is the only way to come back very soon for the title, not to speak, but with actions. Now is not the moment to talk."
-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN
At the start of the summer, we had talked about Chelsea keeping things low-key and flying under the radar. Let the big personalities up north dominate the headlines, let them wear out each other. Keep expectations manageable: top four, Champions League. And let's get to work.