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  • Chelsea won the Premier League title with a win at West Brom on Friday
  • Antonio Conte has landed the biggest prize in just his first season in England
  • The Italian has masterminded an overhaul of the club’s fortunes
  • These are the key moments from a wonderful season at Stamford Bridge 

 

There’s a grand old saying from football’s lexicon of quotations most often attributed to Bill Shankly.

Shanks was probably not the first to coin it but he adhered to the belief that when building a team a manager needed eight to carry the piano and three to play it.

Antonio Conte is on the same page albeit with the modern twist of an 18-man match-day squad.

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  • Team P GD Pts
    1 Chelsea 36 47 87
    2 Tottenham Hotspur 35 48 77
    3 Liverpool 36 29 70
    4 Manchester City 35 33 69
    5 Arsenal 35 26 66
    6 Manchester United 35 24 65
    7 Everton 37 20 61
    8 West Bromwich Albion 36 -5 45
    9 Leicester City 35 -9 43
    10 Southampton 35 -7 42
    11 Bournemouth 36 -13 42
    12 West Ham United 36 -14 42
    13 Stoke City 36 -13 41
    14 Burnley 36 -14 40
    15 Watford 36 -22 40
    16 Crystal Palace 36 -15 38
    17 Swansea City 36 -28 35
    18 Hull City 36 -33 34
    19 Middlesbrough 36 -22 28
    20 Sunderland 35 -32 24

He picked his favourite three artists: Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Pedro, and created a team to ensure they flourished.

Bad news for Oscar, Willian and Cesc Fabregas but good for Roman Abramovich and helpful to English football.

It is not simply about splurging the Premier League riches on as much talent as can be afforded and cramming it all in.

Chelsea’s fifth title of the Roman Empire owed everything to shape, balance and environment and a coach who understood the requirements of a successful team.

Michy Batshuayi celebrates scoring Chelsea's winning goal at West Brom on Friday

Michy Batshuayi celebrates scoring Chelsea’s winning goal at West Brom on Friday

Batshuayi slid in with nine minutes left to ensure Chelsea claimed the Premier League title

Batshuayi slid in with nine minutes left to ensure Chelsea claimed the Premier League title

Arsenal 3 Chelsea 0

The undisputed trigger for Conte’s revolution. A jarring defeat in September; a third game without a win. Chelsea were eighth with 10 points from six games, eight points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.

The Italian decided if things were going to go this wrong they might as well go wrong on his terms.

He moved to a back-three midway through the second-half at Arsenal and would explain his feelings to Roman Abramovich during a series of intense lunch meetings at the training ground. With the backing of the owner, he set to some serious changes.

John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Oscar and John Obi Mikel would not start again in the Premier League. Three were sold in January and Terry will leave at the end of the season.

Arsenal hammered Chelsea last September - but it spurred the beaten side on to glory

Arsenal hammered Chelsea last September – but it spurred the beaten side on to glory

Tactical High Jinks

Without a late swoop for David Luiz and Marcos Alonso in the summer market, there would have been no scope for Conte to flex into his preferred back-three formation.

Chelsea’s recruiters missed out on centre halves last summer but knew what the coach wanted and finally delivered, even if £23million for Alonso from Fiorentina seemed a bit steep at the time.

After six goals from 34 brilliantly consistent games it looks great value. Luiz thrived with the responsibility of the defensive keystone. On the right, Conte took a chance and converted Victor Moses into a wing back.

Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, as ever, performed their duties capably and without fuss.

The impact was stunning. With this quintet in place Chelsea have been beaten only once in the Premier League (at Tottenham in January).

David Luiz has been a revelation in Chelsea's new three-man defence after re-signing in 2016

David Luiz has been a revelation in Chelsea’s new three-man defence after re-signing in 2016

But there has been no place for Chelsea's 'captain, leader, legend' John Terry in the starting XI

But there has been no place for Chelsea’s ‘captain, leader, legend’ John Terry in the starting XI

Lucky for some

Thirteen wins in a row set a new record and peak Chelsea was in evidence during three home games in the autumn.

Leicester, Manchester United and Everton were blown away in a blur of a dozen goals scored with none conceded.

Briefly, Conte’s transformation had everyone transfixed before containment plans started to hatch.

October’s 4-0 win against Manchester United finally cleansed Jose Mourinho from the system and heralded a new dawn at Stamford Bridge.

The United boss stood unacknowledged as the home crowd serenaded Conte, a new hero. They were no longer under Mourinho’s spell.

Not a single point was dropped in October, November or December.

Chelsea climbed to the top after a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough in November and by the end of 2016, they were six clear.

The golden run ended at Tottenham on January 4 but they have topped the league for nearly six months.

Jose Mourinho was all smiles with Conte on his first return to Stamford Bridge last October...

Jose Mourinho was all smiles with Conte on his first return to Stamford Bridge last October…

...but the Manchester United boss ended the game furious with Conte after a 4-0 humbling

…but the Manchester United boss ended the game furious with Conte after a 4-0 humbling

Playing the Piano

In the new system, Hazard was spared some defensive duties and moved into an inside left position. In 10 games between mid-October and Boxing Day, he scored seven.

Conte opted for Pedro’s sheer pace over Willian’s mileage and set-piece accuracy and Costa shouldered the goal burden, most of them scored before the turn of the year.

Fabregas, not willing to move despite life in the margins, refused to complain, got fitter and became a very useful asset, usually from the bench when a stubborn defence could not be unpicked.

Sometimes he’d start when Chelsea expected to dominate possession and the physical presence of Nemanja Matic was less important.

Dismissed as a failed signing by some, Pedro was given another chance... and took it

Dismissed as a failed signing by some, Pedro was given another chance… and took it

Diego Costa (right) led the title charge with a series of crucial goals, especially in 2016

Diego Costa (right) led the title charge with a series of crucial goals, especially in 2016

Carrying it

Mourinho’s Chelsea – the one built in 2004 and which endured until his return in 2013 thanks to the personalities of Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech – was famed for its mental strength and resilience.

Conte has instilled the same inner belief and ability to respond to setbacks. Defeat at Spurs was followed by a 3-0 win at Leicester.

The shock defeat by Crystal Palace was followed by a win against Manchester City. And after defeat at Manchester United they won the FA Cup semi-final and fired four past Southampton, with Costa ending a personal drought of seven games without a goal.

When they were bruised Chelsea hit back. The football became less fluent but they refused to let any rot take hold.

Thibaut Courtois made big saves at important moments. One from Patrick van Aanholt at Sunderland in December preserved a 1-0 win and was probably his best of the season.

Cahill’s late winner at Stoke in March was a key psychological moment for the champions. He has not only taken the captain’s armband from Terry but also his knack for an important goal.

Gary Cahill has taken over from Terry as the team's big-hearted captain and defensive leader

Gary Cahill has taken over from Terry as the team’s big-hearted captain and defensive leader

N’Golo Kante

Perhaps the signing of last summer. More kudos to Chelsea’s wheelers and dealers who moved quickly and clinically. Kante won both the PFA Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year awards.

His form has soared since the tactical switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation freed him from a restrictive holding midfield position to roam as he did at Leicester.

N'Golo Kante has left opponents trailing in his wake with all-action midfield displays

N’Golo Kante has left opponents trailing in his wake with all-action midfield displays

FA Cup semi-final

With nine wins in a row Tottenham had closed the gap to four points and were emerging as the only threat to the procession when they met at Wembley.

Could Spurs eat at Chelsea’s nerves? No chance. Conte, missing captain Cahill, refused to blink. He left Costa and Hazard on the bench and brought them and Fabregas on to devastating effect in a 4-2 win.

Albeit in a different competition, the crushing of their closest rivals restored confidence levels and goals flowed again.

Four were fired past Southampton, three past Everton and – after Tottenham faltered at West Ham – three past Middlesbrough.

Eden Hazard, the team's star creative force, celebrates his goal against Tottenham at Wembley

Eden Hazard, the team’s star creative force, celebrates his goal against Tottenham at Wembley

Conte Factor

It is impossible to underestimate the impact Conte has made.

Abramovich trusted his tactical instinct and he has controlled the squad which rebelled against Mourinho.

He satisfied those on the fringes and kept them interested in his project and nurtured some of the club’s own young players, notably Nathaniel Chalobah.

He has steered the Costa tempest in the right direction and respectfully managed the dethroning of ‘Captain Leader Legend’ Terry.

Chelsea supporters have fallen for his unbridled passion on the touchline, his reluctance to trade in excuses and, most of all, they adore his unerring eye for making the right move at the right time.

Conte shows his trademark passion on the touchline

Conte's face shows his emotion in an embrace with Diego Costa

Conte shows his trademark passion on the touchline, and in an embrace with Diego Costa

The Italian manager has conquered English football in only his first season with Chelsea

The Italian manager has conquered English football in only his first season with Chelsea

CHELSEA SEASON 2016-17

2016:

15 Aug Chelsea 2–1 West Ham

20 Aug Watford 1–2 Chelsea

27 Aug Chelsea 3–0 Burnley

11 Sept Swansea 2–2 Chelsea

16 Sept Chelsea 1–2 Liverpool

24 Sept Arsenal 3–0 Chelsea

1 Oct Hull 0–2 Chelsea

15 Oct Chelsea 3–0 Leicester City

23 Oct Chelsea 4–0 Manchester Utd

30 Oct Southampton 0–2 Chelsea

5 Nov Chelsea 5–0 Everton

20 Nov Middlesbrough 0–1 Chelsea

26 Nov Chelsea 2–1 Tottenham

3 Dec Manchester City 1–3 Chelsea

11 Dec Chelsea 1–0 West Brom

14 Dec Sunderland 0–1 Chelsea

17 Dec Crystal Palace 0–1 Chelsea

26 Dec Chelsea 3–0 Bournemouth

31 Dec Chelsea 4–2 Stoke

2017:

4 Jan Tottenham 2–0 Chelsea

14 Jan Leicester 0–3 Chelsea

22 Jan Chelsea 2–0 Hull

31 Jan Liverpool 1–1 Chelsea

4 Feb Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal

12 Feb Burnley 1–1 Chelsea

25 Feb Chelsea 3–1 Swansea

6 Mar West Ham 1–2 Chelsea

18 Mar Stoke 1–2 Chelsea

1 Apr Chelsea 1–2 Crystal Palace

5 Apr Chelsea 2–1 Manchester City

9 Apr Bournemouth 1–3 Chelsea

16 Apr Manchester Utd 2–0 Chelsea

25 Apr Chelsea 4–2 Southampton

30 Apr Everton 0–3 Chelsea

8 May Chelsea 3–0 Middlesbrough

12 May West Brom 0-1 Chelsea

16 May Chelsea v Watford

21 May Chelsea v Sunderland

Culled from Dailymail.co.uk

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