How Chelsea became Premier League Champions again

Ed Nixon Roar Pro

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    A year ago today, Chelsea were languishing in ninth place in the league. They were out of contention for any silverware and were onto their second manager of the season.

    A year on, and things could not be more different.

    A 1-0 away victory over West Brom, courtesy of a late Michy Batshuayi winner secured the title for Chelsea with two games left to play.

    But just how have they turned things around so drastically?

    After a tumultuous 2015-16 campaign which saw Chelsea go through two managers, owner Roman Abramovich got the man he was after when Italy boss Antonio Conte penned a three-year deal with the West London side.

    In Conte, Chelsea now had a tactically smart manager who would bring a new mentality and style of play to Stamford Bridge.

    In his first summer transfer window, Conte made some crucial signings that would shape the course of Chelsea’s season. None were more important than N’Golo Kante.

    N'Golo Kante for Leicester

    (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

    Fresh from guiding Leicester to their first Premier League title, Kante was instrumental in Chelsea going from a mid-table side to undisputed champions.

    He has made 114 tackles, 2,011 successful passes and 79 interceptions as he has imposed himself on a Chelsea midfield which had previously lacked a hard-working general who was content with doing the basics right.

    As Conte implemented a new look 3-4-2-1 system, a formation he deployed successfully for Juventus, it allowed Kante to play with the same freedom he did at Leicester and saw him claim both the PFA Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year awards.

    New signing Marcos Alonso and the resurgent Victor Moses were utilised as wing backs, while the re-signed David Luiz and ever-present combination of Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta acted as the cornerstone of Chelsea’s three man defence that has kept a league high 16 clean sheets to date.

    Up top, Conte built his team around the attacking prowess of the Eden Hazard, Pedro and the villainous Diego Costa.

    Out wide, Hazard recaptured his form from 2014-15 which landed him the PFA and FWA Player of the Year, as he has netted 15 goals and five assists.

    On the other flank, Pedro put a disappointing debut season behind him as he answered his critics with eight goals and eight assists, while Diego Costa got off to a fast start to the season and has 20 league goals to his name.

    Chelsea didn’t have it all their own way to start the season however. They only picked up ten points in their first six games, but Conte’s side soon started to embrace the Italian’s system and it saw his side go on a 13 game winning streak.

    Club legend John Terry, alongside veterans John Obi Mikel and Branislav Ivanovic were frozen out of the side, with the latter two being sold in January, while Terry is set to end his 19 year stay at the club this summer.

    The result of these changes has seen Chelsea become the dominant force in the Premier League this season, while adopting a new style of play to keep up with the ever evolving tactics of modern day football.

    Conte’s first season in English football has been a success, but he will have one final hurdle to face on 28th May when his side face Arsenal in the FA Cup Final.

    Conte will be looking to become the first Chelsea manager since Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10 to win the double in his first season in charge.