November 9, 2016

FREE KICKS: The Italian, non-Italian ways of Chelsea

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Nobody is singing the blues at Chelsea these days.

Manager Alberto Conte has this team playing the best all-around game in the Premier League and it’s showing in their rise up the table to sit second going into the international break.

Since switching to a three-at-the-back system , Chelsea hasn’t allowed a goal and has scored 19 of their own in six league games.

Up front, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have been incredible, while some of the lesser lights of Pedro, Nemanja Matic and Victor Moses have played their parts well. Summer signing Marcos Alonso has been a revelation as a wing back as well.

David Luiz is actually playing like a defender, too. That might be the most remarkable bit of management from Conte.

Better yet from Conte, he now has as many Premier League victories since the start of last season as Jose Mourinho – and Conte was still in Italy last season!

The Blues’ 5-0 demolition of Everton may have surprised some, but it was always in the offing. Everton haven’t won at Stamford Bridge in 22 years and running into this blue buzzsaw at the wrong time.

While Conte has his team playing a more “Italian” style of play, placing defending as a priority, the attack hasn’t gone soft either. Just look at Saturday’s game: Everton had just one shot in the game and it wasn’t even on target, while Chelsea took 21 with nine on target.

We’re now at 500 minutes without a goal allowed by the Blues and it’ll be hard to see that streak end.


Speaking of Chelsea, this week’s top performer is Eden Hazard.

People laughed when Mourinho said last year that the Belgian was ready to reach the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and Hazard largely proved the doubters right.

But now, he has found his elite form again and will likely be in the conversation as player of the year.

His two goals and an assist against the Toffees gives him five goals in four game and seven on the season. He’s already halfway to his total from two years ago, when he was the EPL’s top player.

Pardon the pun, but Eden is a real hazard for opponents to deal with right now.


People should probably start marking Diego Costa on corners. I’m just sayin’ … Manchester City has to be steaming after that draw with Middlesbrough. That’s two points dropped because it switched off for a moment. Could be a huge difference at the end of the season … Congrats to David Moyes on collecting his first league win with Sunderland. The Black Cats are still at the bottom of the table though and will need more than that to beat relegation … A week after holding the fort while Manchester United came at them in waves, Burnley played Crystal Palace’s attacking style and beat the Eagles at their own game … Harry Kane’s back from injury and just in time for Tottenham. The Spurs lost Dele Alli this week for about a month and will need the forward to bolster their attack … Another North London derby, another draw. Do either of these teams ever go all out for a win any more? … Ron-Robert Zeiler will have to be better than that with Kasper Schmeichel out with a broken hand if Leicester wants to crawl up the table and get to a spot in Europe for next season … Interesting stat: Wayne Rooney has more assists (four) than Mesut Ozil (one) this season … Robert Snodgrass sure looked healthy, even if every says that he’s not. The Hull attack had a goal and assist in the Tigers comeback win … Is United back, or are the Swans really this bad? It’s probably a bit of both after Bob Bradley’s side were overrun by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba this week … Do you think that Heurehlo Gomes knew what was coming from Liverpool and feigned a limp to avoid embarrassment? I mean, it’s not out of the question, right? … Ahh, yes, daylight savings time, our old friend. Thanks more making it difficult once again to figure out the EPL schedule.


While Chelsea got the top billing of today’s post, it’s Liverpool that is at the top of the table.

The Reds’ attack is one of the best in world right now and actually has the Kop cheering that if they still had Luis Suarez, he’d be on their bench.

All exaggeration aside, Liverpool’s attack has been nothing short of incredible.

This week it put six goals past a Watford club that had been on a nice little run. The Reds had 17 shots on target, which is more in a game than any club has recorded since the 2003-04 season.

Between Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firminho, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane, we’ve seen Daniel Sturridge basically limited to substitute appearances in league games.

Sure, the defence can’t keep a clean sheet to save it’s life, but it doesn’t matter when you’re running rampant in your opponent’s end.

And if that sort of play continues, Liverpool will not only be the most exciting team to watch in the Premier League, they’ll be at or near the top of the table for the rest of the campaign.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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