It’s hard to believe that this year’s Chelsea squad is largely the same team that was such a disaster under José Mourinho a year ago. Last season was one of the worst years for Chelsea in recent memory. After entering the campaign as reigning Premier League title holders, the club quickly found themselves in the bottom half of the table. Since then, it’s been a long road back to the top, but the team is now once again a dominant force in the Premier League.
Spectators had to constantly remind themselves that the 2015-16 squad was the same team that won the league with Mourinho barely a year earlier. The homecoming of “the Special One” was initially greeted with jubilation by supporters who held fond memories of Mourinho’s first spell, when he helped to turn the Blues in to the juggernaut they are today. However, that shine quickly faded as the club lost game after game and reports of poor relationships with players began to surface.
By the time Chelsea finally decided to part with Mourinho, they were in dire straits with a lone win in October and not a lot more to shout about in November. When they lost to eventual champs Leicester City in December, the squad sat only one point above the relegation zone – a steep drop for a team that was at the top not long before. Ultimately, the Blues finished in 10th place, a far cry from their typical haunts in the top four. This was the worst finish for Chelsea since the 1996-97 season, and it was obvious changes needed to be made, and fast, if they hoped to regain their past glory.
Everything seemed to turn around with the hiring of the former Juventus and Italy manager, Antonio Conte, in April of 2016. With the exception of a few additions – notably the signing of Leicester’s N’Golo Kanté and the return of David Luiz from Paris Saint-Germain – this is largely the same team from last year. They’re just now actually playing to their potential. The players credit Conte with the team’s success and the club has expressed interest in offering the boss a long-term contract.
Given what Conte has accomplished in such a short amount of time, Chelsea would be wise to hold onto the man responsible for what seems to be a sure Premier League title. If they can get Conte to stick around Stamford Bridge for the foreseeable future, he could become the longest-tenured manager since Mourinho’s first stint at the club, from 2004 to 2007. If that ends up being the case, the rest of the league might want to get used to seeing Chelsea at the top again.