Antonio Conte's willingness to adapt to in-game situations is proving to be the difference.
Chelsea take on Sunderland tonight with a chance to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to six points. As our rivals stumb...
Chelsea take on Sunderland tonight with a chance to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to six points. As our rivals stumble, Antonio Conte's willingness to adapt and change has delivered impressive results.
Sitting in the Matthew Harding Lower on Sunday lunchtime, watching a Tony Pulis West Brom side set up to defend in numbers, to play two deep in front of their centre backs to negate the space and to waste as much time as possible became such a frustrating affair. It's safe to say that it looked as though the game would finish in a 0-0 stalemate until two men changed the course of the game.
Antonio Conte's substitutions and a willingness to change our formation THREE TIMES in the last 25 minutes of the game played a huge part towards the end result. Diego Costa working hard without the ball to create something from literally nothing, to then rifle the ball into the top corner of the net is the other and I am so pleased it worked out for us.
Diego Costa is a man on fire at the moment and has received plenty of plaudits of late which is well deserved. There will be more on this website about him later.
What I would like to focus on is the Manager and the change in our formation at various times that really impressed me. It became clear early on in the game that West Brom were set up to defend with at least six players in and around their box. They had studied just how Eden Hazard and Pedro would like to make movement inside from wide areas towards the middle of the pitch and if possible up with Diego Costa, so decided to flood that area with bodies.
As Chelsea had plenty of possession in the first half, there was no real openings and the likes of David Luiz, Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante had to settle for playing the ball sideways. For the opening period in the second half it seemed to be the same story and it was becoming really frustrating.
By making the first change to our starting eleven in a 3-4-3 formation, Willian was introduced in the place of Pedro and he took his place wide right, Victor Moses moved to the left wing with Eden Hazard moving up alongside Diego Costa in a 4-4-2 formation with Alonso, Cahill, Luiz and Azpi as our defensive four.
Ten minutes later, after seeing that the 4-4-2 was creating slightly more chances that previously but still not threatening West Brom enough, Conte made a second change on 74 minutes by replacing Moses with Cesc Fabregas and switching to his third formation of the game a 4-3-3 with Hazard, Costa and Willian up top and Fabregas next to Matic and Kante in the middle.
By constantly changing his formation it gave West Brom plenty to think about as we now had men coming forward from deep and natural width again pushed up against their full backs. The change to 4-3-3 paid off as we all know with the time Fabregas had to play the ball forward into an attacking area for Diego Costa and the rest is now history.
As soon as we got the goal we craved, Conte made his third and final substitution with Ivanovic coming on for Ivanovic and changing our formation to 5-4-1. By doing so, Ivanovic made an important contribution by winning defensive headers to get the ball away from danger which also played a part in the result.
3-4-3, 4-4-2, 4-3-3 then 4-5-1 Antonio Conte really, really impressed me in that second half. If anything, he impressed me more by demonstrating his tactical flexibility with the players to get the result than in our comebacks against Tottenham and Manchester City.
How many times have we seen Chelsea over recent years really struggle to break teams down with no real plan B but to just throw attackers on in the hope that you would get a result? This was totally different and the win was justified for Conte for having the willingness to try something different.
What did you think of the win and of the tactical changes Antonio Conte made during the game?