Just past the halfway point of the 2017-18 season, Chelsea have risen to highest in the table since finishing the previous season sitting at the very top of it. Second place is not first, to point out the obvious, but given how things began for Chelsea in the summer, with that 3-2 home loss to Burnley and shock defeats at Crystal Palace and West Ham since, not to mention Manchester City’s historic season, second place will have to do for now. Entering the new year on the back of a 5-0 romp also isn’t bad at all.
“I think our performance was very positive, we started the game very well with great desire to score early because, as I’ve said before, in this type of game if you score early it can become easier because your opponent has to change their plan. We started very well and we wanted that. I’m very pleased with the performance of all my players and to finish with another clean sheet. We are showing good solidity.”
The improvement over the past few months is testament to the hard work Conte and the players have been putting in, dealing with the increased pressures of last year’s success as well as the increased strength and complexity of this season’s schedule. But while the calendar year may be over, the season is far from so. The hard work is only just beginning; the search for constant improvement must never stop.
“We have to continue to work very hard to improve but to finish this year in this way is great for me, the club and the fans. It was a fantastic year for us because to win the title in England is not simple. To be able to do this with your first chance, I will remember this year forever.”
“[Now] we have to face five months which will be very tough because we have to fight for a place in the Champions League and it won’t be easy to reach this target. Man City have created a big gap between themselves and the other teams. I don’t know what will happen but we have to try to get three points in every game, to put some pressure on the teams above us.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Chelsea have not had great success in games following the New Year in recent seasons, losing to Spurs at White Hart Lane both in 2017 and in 2015, and even more shockingly to QPR (at home!) in 2013. Next up are Arsenal on Wednesday, January 3. Winning at the Emirates would be one of those small achievable improvements we can strive towards with the main prize of the league already gone to Manchester City.