Chelsea a new team after Conte’s switch

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

LON­DON (AP): ITH CHELSEA leak­ing goals too eas­ily, An­to­nio Conte didn’t have to search far for the so­lu­tion.

The Ital­ian man­ager merely im­ple­mented the tac­tics that served him well with Ju­ven­tus and his national team.

Chelsea have not con­ceded a goal in the Premier League and have won all four games since Conte re­moved a de­fender from their typ­i­cal four-man back­line. And, with four suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries since the tac­ti­cal tin­ker­ing, Chelsea has clam­bered up the stand­ings to join the chas­ing pack.

Manch­ester City, Arse­nal and Liver­pool are only sep­a­rated by goal dif­fer­ence, and Chelsea, who host Ever­ton to­mor­row, are a point be­hind. It’s some re­vival for a team that was on its knees last sea­son, when the reign­ing cham­pi­ons col­lapsed and José Mour­inho was fired.

Gary Cahill has been fea­tur­ing on the left of the back three with David Luiz in the cen­tre and Ce­sar Azpilicueta on the right.

WGETTING RE­WARDS

“Ev­ery player has worked hard on the shape the man­ager has brought in and we are get­ting the re­wards,” Cahill said. “It is all right hav­ing the shape. It is also to do with hav­ing the play­ers with the men­tal­ity to go out and do the busi­ness when we need to.

“We have the flair play­ers to go out and cre­ate and score goals, but we also need them to dig in and de­fend well.”

The turn­ing point was the Septem­ber 24 loss to Arse­nal, when Chelsea had con­ceded three goals be­fore half-time. Switch­ing to three at the back for the sec­ond half shored up the de­fence and pre­vented a heavy de­feat. Within weeks, Chelsea were de­liv­er­ing a hum­bling of their own by beat­ing Manch­ester United 4-0 in the big­gest sign that Conte’s 3-4-3 is flour­ish­ing.

“The cen­tral de­fend­ers on the right and the left must be very fast and ag­gres­sive,” Conte said. “The play­ers that play in the mid­dle of the three de­fend­ers must be more tac­ti­cal, must re­flect more and find the right po­si­tion, and also call the line up and down.”

To­mor­row’s op­po­nents, Ever­ton, are only four points be­hind Chelsea and in sixth place, de­spite an er­ratic spell in re­cent weeks. The high­lights have been hold­ing Manch­ester City to a 1-1 draw and beat­ing West Ham, but losses to Burn­ley and Bournemouth could prove dam­ag­ing to Ever­ton’s am­bi­tions to qual­ify for the Europa League.

NORTH LON­DON DI­VIDE

Arse­nal and Tot­ten­ham head into Sun­day’s derby after a week of con­trasts in the Cham­pi­ons League. Arse­nal se­cured a 17th con­sec­u­tive sea­son in the round of 16 with a gritty come­back to beat Lu­do­gorets 3-2. Tot­ten­ham’s mis­er­able re­turn to Europe’s elite com­pe­ti­tion after a sixyear ab­sence con­tin­ued with a home loss to Bayer Lev­erkusen.

With only four points from a pos­si­ble 12, Tot­ten­ham are fac­ing early elim­i­na­tion. They may be shin­ing in the Premier League as the last re­main­ing un­beaten team, but in the Cham­pi­ons League, they just can’t win.

Since over­whelm­ing Manch­ester City 2-0 at the start of Oc­to­ber, Tot­ten­ham have drawn their three league games and only scored twice, drop­ping to fifth.

“We’ve lost a bit of con­fi­dence,” Tot­ten­ham goal­keeper Hugo Lloris said.

Arse­nal, though, have won 10 out of 11 games in all com­pe­ti­tions. Sun­day’s derby is the first time the neigh­bours will be meet­ing since a late ca­pit­u­la­tion in May al­lowed Arsene Wenger to snatch sec­ond place and main­tain his record of fin­ish­ing above Tot­ten­ham ev­ery sea­son since tak­ing charge in 1996.

Le­ices­ter will be with­out

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