Football

Published on August 11th, 2017 | by Vieri Capretta

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Chelsea face uphill battle to manage Premier League title repeat

Unless Antonio Conte can bring in reinforcements to his Chelsea squad, a return to Champions League action could be too much for the EPL Champions

It is difficult enough to win, but to repeat is even harder.

Consistency is the difference between a great club and a legendary club. Chelsea won the Premier League title in 2015, only to have one of the worst seasons of the past 20 years just 12 months later. And then came back a year later to win it again. Antonio Conte’s team was hardly a favourite last year, yet it dominated the league and won the title.

To do the same again is of course possible, albeit difficult. The Champions League takes away physical and mental strength, distracts from the domestic league, and gives everyone something else to think about. During his time at Juventus, European football was always Conte’s Achilles heel. An absolute beast in winning league titles, a little kid in the Champions League.

So to win the title again, Conte will have to adapt to having both commitments, and rotate the players accordingly, as well as having an extra push from the transfer window. Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko have been brought in, but only to replace Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, Antonio Rudiger is a solid option. Additions were needed, and still are needed, with Conte making it clear in the press conferences: he wants more options and more depth.

That aside, it is also true that Conte managed to win the title last year with these men, without ever looking like he could lose it and against all odds. It wasn’t that much of a surprise victory only because of what Leicester City had done the previous season. The Champions of England are still the team to beat this year.

Conte demands everything from his players, so of course some of them could be drained and struggle slightly this year, but it is also true that apart from a couple of real stars, in the Chelsea squad many owe Conte a lot for how they performed last year. So it is likely that he can get at least another top season out of them.

Then there’s the opponents: Manchester United and Manchester City seem the ones in best shape to challenge for the title, after spending a lot of money and bringing in a lot of players. Arsenal and Liverpool seem a step behind, whilst Tottenham is fundamentally the same team, ready to win it but still lacking that special something.

A lot of Chelsea’s chances to repeat last season’s victory will depend on the other title challengers: if Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola manage to get their teams going, they’ll probably have that extra power to leave the others behind. If not Chelsea are in it.

If Conte can bring in the final players he wants – another defender, something in midfield and a reinforcement up front – then he’ll have no excuse not to perform on a similar level and challenge for the title until the very end.

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A freelance journalist and broadcaster focusing on European soccer and currently featuring on Uefa.com, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Marca in English and more.



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