As Chelsea kicked off the Antonio Conte era with a bang, with two goals, three points, and many more excellent individual showings. While Eden Hazard's masterclass on the left wing is perhaps most noteworthy, another standout was Gary Cahill in defence, who effectively marshaled Andy Carroll, so often a thorn in our side (including goals in both meetings last season).
Cahill, who recently signed a new long-term contract, is entering his fifth season as a first-choice center back, an arrangement that certainly hasn’t been met with universal acclaim, but one that has witnessed quite a bit of success.
But after last season’s woes, which saw him fall behind the currently injured Kurt Zouma in the pecking order, the veteran is looking to build on the good start and keep the team flying high, yet under the radar. Let the media concentrate on the Manchesters and Arsenals and Liverpools ... and the #CostaCrimes, but some noise is unavoidable.
"You only have to look at all the things that happened last season to know it’s irrelevant what anyone is saying about any team or any manager right now and who is going to win the League."
"It is not something we are bothered about. It’s about working hard. We know what to expect and what’s expected of each individual player. Last season was way short of the mark and everybody knows that, so we know what we have to do. We will let everybody else do all the talking and just concentrate on ourselves."
Although Antonio Conte's training methods have been criticised by The Best Fitness Coach in the World™ throughout the preseason, we could see the results of it already paying off. Our players seemed to be in much better shape compared to not only their debut last season, but also when compared with the visitors who had already been involved in competitive matches.
According to Cahill, Conte's preseason regime was the hardest he's ever been subjected to, but it was worth it.
"Preseason is always hard. But this was one of the hardest I have experienced in the last few years — definitely in terms of fitness. We did a lot of running and intensive endurance work."
"But I feel it has been only good for the body and got us in the condition you have to be in to play in the Premier League, especially now it is getting more and more physical and demanding."
-Gary Cahill; source: London Evening Standard
It's surely premature to draw any conclusions or try to make predictions for Chelsea just from a few preseason games and one league game. Still, most of what we've seen so far has been positive. From the back line to the attacking front, Chelsea seem to have taken a step forward from the woeful performances of last season and, hopefully, will continue on this path until the very end of this season.