Chelsea have had a remarkable turnaround to their Premier League campaign, as after a mixed start to the season, the Blues find themselves at the top of the Premier League after Gameweek 13. They extended their winning run to seven consecutive games, after a 2-1 victory in the London derby against Tottenham on Saturday.
With another dominant display at the Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have more than announced their credentials as the frontrunners for the title come May.
Here we look at three reasons why the Blues should be considered firm favourites to finish as Champions of the Premier League 2016/17:
Chelsea’s defence – Joint Strongest in Premier League
Chelsea came into the match against Spurs having not conceded in six successive Premier League games during which they faced the current champions Leicester City, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United and a revived Everton under Ronald Koeman.
But Conte’s 3-4-3 system has brought the best out of the Chelsea back-line. Cesar Azpilicueta has owned the position on the right of the three-man defence. David Luiz, a panic buy on the deadline day, has slotted in the centre seamlessly while Gary Cahill has benefitted the most from the switch to this system. The England international has been a rock at the back after a shaky start to the season and has led by example.
The wing-backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso, another deadline day signing, were two players with the biggest question marks over their heads. But they have looked very comfortable on the flanks, and have been critical to Chelsea’ success so far this season.
And add to that the quality of a goalkeeper like Thibaut Courtois and you have an airtight defence.
The Blues defence has been so dominant ever since the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September that they had not conceded for 601 minutes on the trot until Saturday when Christian Eriksen put one past Courtois.
Chelsea still remains the best side in defence in the Premier League, though, having conceded only 10 times in 13 games, along with Tottenham.
Such a tight defence surely makes their chances for the Premier League victory stronger.
The Attacking Triumvirate of Hazard, Pedro and Costa
Chelsea have scored 29 goals so far this season, the second highest in the Premier League behind Liverpool (32). Their three-pronged attack of Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Pedro Rodriguez have been firing on all cylinders.
Costa, who looked more of a streetfighter last season, is a changed man under Conte. The desire to excel, the will to keep performing, the change in attitude is there for everyone to see. He has scored 10 times so far this season and is the joint top-scorer in the league along with Sergio Aguero. He has assisted a further four goals for Chelsea and has been in fine form.
On either side of Costa, Eden Hazard and Pedro look like men reborn under the tutelage of the Italian. After enduring a disastrous spell in 2015-16, both the attackers are thriving in the 3-4-3 system. The freedom that they are afforded under the former Juventus manager has brought out their best this season, with both playing with a verve and swagger in their style. Hazard has scored 7 times already this season, while the Spaniard has gotten his name on the scoresheet thrice. Both have had a hand in 6 more goals, with Hazard assisting one and Pedro five.
If these three continue to play the way they have been so far, Chelsea will be unstoppable.
The Antonio Conte Factor
Antonio Conte, is no doubt, one of the best managers around. Having had such a huge success at Juventus and a very good run with the Italian National Team, the 47-year old took over at Chelsea in the summer.
He is one of the most intelligent minds in football and his tactical nous is widely regarded. And that has been on the show with Chelsea’s success under the Italian in a 3-4-3 setup.
Furthermore, what has been pleasing to see is that he has been able to build a bond with his players so early in his tenure. He has been able to convince the players of his methods and his squad look to have bought into his ideas and thoughts.
He has managed to boost the confidence of the squad after a poor last season and along the way revived the Chelsea careers of someone like a Victor Moses or Nemanja Matic. Every player of his has managed to make a telling contribution to the team’s cause this term.
Conte is a highly passionate character and his passion and zestful nature seems to have rubbed off on his players. They are playing with a new found vigour under the Italian, which was hardly seen in the previous season. He has had a positive effect on this Chelsea side and with him on the sidelines, Chelsea look like frontrunners for the title.