Conte and Chelsea got their 2016/2017 Premier League campaign off to a winning start after seeing off Westham 2-1 late at Stamford Bridge with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the score sheet.
After a cagey and closed first half that ended goalless, life was breathed into the game when Hazard netted from the spot in the 47th minute after Michel Antonio had fouled Cesar Azpilicueta inside the box. However, a rare well-timed James Collins’ left-footed strike from 16 yards did pull level terms with 13 minutes left to play, but it was Diego Costa who had the last say on the fiesty contest with his 89th minute long range strike from 20 yards sending the home crowd delirious. Costa could have perhaps been sent off before his goal having been involved in a mistimed lunge on Wertham’s keeper Adrian, but it was the ref’s controversial decision not to book him for a second time that kept him on the pitch which was perhaps much to the delight of Chelsea supporters and dismay for Westham.
After much preseason work and despite a lack of transfer activity during this season’s transfer window, Chelsea remain a force in the top flight. They will be hoping to put last season’s dismal 10th place finish under former boss Jose Mourinho behind them and start a new era led by new boss ‘Conte’. Chelsea have however managed to lure French midfielder N’golo Kante from the reigning champions Leicester City and also added Belgian Mitchy Batshuayi from Marseille to their ranks, but its the former who shone brightest in his debut match against Westham on Monday and the latter was brought on as a substitute. Cesc Fabregas was left out of the starting lineup, a decision made by Conte which somewhat raised eyebrows over the Fabregas’ future in the club, with the Spaniard himself scared of losing his place in the team and is believed to be seeking a move away. Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG have all been touted as possible destinations.
But despite the lack of transfer activity with two weeks left of the current window compared to big spenders like both Manchester clubs, Chelsea can’t be written off the market just yet, anything can happen! Recently the club are being linked to moves for Napoli’s highly rated Senegalese centre back Kalidou Koulibaly, FC Köln’s Jonas Hector, PSG’s Blaise Matuidi, Roma’s Radja Naingolan, Real Madrid’s Jame Rodriguez and Everton’s forward Romelu Lukaku. Koulibaly and Lukaku have been linked to the club for much of the window, but anything about agreeing a deal with their respective clubs are far from reality for now, given that the club is put off by the high fees each of them command.
However, Antonio Conte has highlighted right from the beginning since he took over the helm at Stamford Bridge, that at least a new center back is needed to strengthen the ageing back line, a strong holding central midfielder and a central forward which would partner Costa or replace him in his preferred 4-2-4 and 4-4-2 formations, especially if he is sold. Costa has been heavily linked with a return to Atletico Madrid all summer but he has brushed off those claims by insisting he’s happy at Chelsea. Conte has been described as a very brilliant coach and tactical genius capable of transforming teams, so much is expected of him. Whether or not Chelsea wins the Premier League title come the end of May is not the club’s target for now, but to qualify for Champions League football next season and probably a 4th place finish would please owner Roman Abramovich.
See photos below:
GETTY IMAGES: Eden Harzard nets from the penalty spot in the 47th minute to open the scoring
GETTY IMAGES: Eden Harzard celebrates after giving Chelsea the lead from the penalty spot
GETTY IMAGES: Diego Costa celebrates after scoring the winning goal for Chelsea