Can Chelsea boss Antonio Conte become a double Premier League title winner?

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) looks at what we can expect from Antonio Conte and Chelsea during the 2017/18 Premier League season.

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Background

Antonio Conte served up a masterclass of man-management and tactical ingenuity in his first season at Stamford Bridge, leading a team broken by Jose Mourinho on a relentless march to the title. There was a little turbulence early on but a switch to 3-4-3 in early October solved everything as Chelsea claimed a staggering 83 points from the last available 96, although the campaign ended on a sour note with defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup final. Alvaro Morata arrives from Real Madrid, Diego Costa surely departs.

Personality

Conte’s greatest skill is connecting with players, making every individual feel wanted and part of something special. He makes a concerted effort to speak with every player on a daily basis, which is why those inside Cobham considered it such a big deal when he ignored Diego Costa for a week in January. Once Conte feels betrayed, players can expect to be ostracised. It’s all or nothing in his world, there’s no in-between. He has an inner flame that can inspire players in an almost hypnotic manner.

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Verdict

Everybody hailed Chelsea’s continuity as a fundamental reason for their title success but there’s a flip-side to that, and it doesn’t take much to turn the tables. Conte walks on the edge of his own temperament and he starts this campaign stretched by an injury to Eden Hazard, while Costa’s front-line aggression likely to be missed. The 3-4-3 that outfoxed so many is also subject to greater intelligence, so the Italian might need to evolve again. His biggest challenge might be staying level-headed if the campaign becomes a struggle.

Prediction: 4th

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