After yet another dominant display at the St Mary’s stadium, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side is beginning to look like the real deal. Since the switch to 3-4-3, the Blues have now gone 410 minutes without conceding a goal in the league and on Sunday, easily saw off Southampton – a side who had been on a quite impressive run of their own. Prior to the defeat, the Saints had gone 5 games without losing.
It was also the first time they had lost at home since the 2-1 defeat at the hands of – wait for it – Chelsea in February. The Blues display was not nearly as breathtaking as the one against Manchester United (far from it), but it was this type of clinical performance that will make the team credible title contenders. Chelsea were quick out of the blocks (again!) and it was Eden Hazard – speak only exceptional things of the magical Belgian – back amongst the goals.
The midfielder is certainly enjoying the most of Conte’s tutorship at the moment and is back to his best form. With just five minutes into the game, the midfielder put Chelsea ahead with a vintage Hazard goal: cutting inside Steven Davis before rifling his low shot beyond Fraser Forster. The England international should have done better with the shot but it takes nothing away from the brilliance of Hazard and ultimately the Chelsea team move that set up the goal.
Diego Costa sealed the game later on with an absolute beauty. Many are of the opinion that the Spaniard is of zero threat outside the box, how about now? Hazard and Costa combined well before the latter, well out of his familiar range, curled a delightful effort past a despairing Forster. 55 minutes and it was already game-over for the home side. The strike was Costa’s 40th Premier League goal in his 64th appearance; seven games faster than it took Sergio Aguero.
Here are 5 things we learnt from Sunday’s win.
HAZARD’S RENAISSANCE IS COMPLETE
At his best, not a handful of players in the world can rival the little Belgian. He has pace, trickery, and can score some really outstanding goals. Also, he’s got a charming sense of humour that endears him to the west London faithful. The playmaker was instrumental in Chelsea’s triumphant season in 2014 and subsequently won the PFA award for the player of year. However, he became an unrecognisable player the season later. His pace, trickery, goals, happiness, you name it – was gone. It was a disaster and worse, nobody saw it coming.
Now with a new manager and system, Hazard is thriving again. He has rediscovered his former touch and – yes, I will say it – looks the best he’s ever been in his career. The goal against Southampton was his fifth in 10 games. 3 in a row (a feat he’s never achieved before). He has even added a new dance to his ranks. While it remains a mystery how Hazard lost most of his swagger last season, with displays like he has been feeding the world recently, nobody would care to find out.
DIEGO DA SILVA COSTA IS A WORLD CLASS STRIKER
Ok, that heading may have been a bit oversold because we knew that already, but it wouldn’t have hurt to reiterate. Chelsea’s very own bad boy is proving his detractors – not like he gives a hoot about them anyway – wrong. The Brazilian turned Spaniard has been a mainstay in Conte’s team this term and has rewarded his manager’s faith in him with goals.
The belligerent forward spent much of the start of the season scowling, scratching, bleating, and scoring. He is a handful for opposition defenders, and when he faces them; they’re probably afraid, maybe a little depressed and almost definitely tired.And they’re looking for anything that’ll wake them up from their costa nightmare.
To that end, his manager urged him to ‘channel’ most of his aggressiveness into his own play rather than on the opposition defenders. It appears to have worked as Costa’s influence on the team has grown over the games and his hot goal-scoring streak is still on. Love him or loathe him, the fiery Spaniard is a wonderful talent.
ON THE PITCH OR SIDELINES, TERRY IS STILL A LEADER
John Terry is a phoenix. That much we should have established over the course of his illustrious career. Every time it seemed like the end of the road for the former England captain, he has always found a way to rise again. Most recently, his wings came with his 1-year contract extension last season despite being destined to leave Chelsea. He is in a similar place again and although it’s increasingly becoming impossible for him to get back into the starting eleven, the 36-year old is still finding a way to exude his influence elsewhere.
Despite being on the substitute bench against the Saints, the captain led his fellow substitutes warm-down. He put the likes of Willian, Nathan Chalobah and Branislav Ivanovic through their paces ahead of the clash, all the way using a stop-watch to monitor proceedings. It may be insufficient gesture but it has all indications –something we all hope for – that the captain may have a role to play off the field in the coming years.
MOSES HAS FINALLY SETTLED AT CHELSEA
Where you been all my life victor. The Nigerian (I’m looking at you Jamie) has been a major beneficiary of Conte’s philosophy at Chelsea. He has taken his transition from a winger to a defensive-minded wing-back beautifully and is currently the most important player in the team. This is said because one would have to wonder if Conte would have persevered with the system say Moses – a key cog in the team at this moment – had difficulty adapting to his new role.
Another key thing to remember is that nobody is currently good enough to challenge him for that particular spot in the team and that begs the question: what will Conte do if something terrible happens to the speed merchant? If you’re thinking right now that one player cannot affect a team’s entire set-up, you’re wrong. The wing-back role is something of an enigma, as with the right player to man the role, it is the engine for the whole system to thrive. However, placing a certain balding Serbian in that role may prove to be toxic and a perfect avenue for opposition to rain assaults will be opened.
Moses is fast – has always been – and yes his adaptation skills has shocked many, but never let it be said that the man never had talent. The rabid manner in which he switches defence to attack is his biggest asset so far and he has also improved his defensive positions over the games. After a series of exasperating loan spells, the Nigerian is now ready to stay put and realize his full potential in a brand new role.
CONTE ISN’T CARRIED AWAY YET
It’d be easy to picture the Italian sleeping with a peaceful smile on his face after his team’s performance against the saints. Yet, this is the time when sleep eludes him the most. The godfather says he ‘loses sleep’ when the team has lost a match and loses sleep ‘even more’ when they’ve won. Such is Conte’s colossally unrelenting pursuit for perfection that the only language he understands is work. Work. Work. Fight. Go!
Speaking at the post-match press conference, the Chelsea manager (who by the way was absolutely beaming at the final whistle before his customary hugging of the players) was quick to dispense any talk of a title charge and admitted he can only access his team’s title credentials after the much dreaded December fixture congestion. Until then, the 41-year old is keeping everything on a low radar. Nice style boss.
Article written by Jibril Baba @Jibril__baba