Here are 5 reasons why Antonio Conte's Chelsea are finally Premier League title contenders again

Chelsea were toiling in defence of the Premier League title 12 months ago, but now are being considered challengers once again.

It certainly is quite the turnaround, and since their lacklustre 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, the Blues have won five in a row – scoring 16 goals and conceding none.

Here, we take a look at five reasons for the resurgence under Antonio Conte.

A team, not individuals

Under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea swiftly disintegrated from a functional to dysfunctional unit.

Conte has fostered a collective desire to play for and with one another that used to be the hallmark of Mourinho’s teams, until he appeared to lose the dressing room.

And rather than jettisoning young talent, Conte is incorporating and trusting the likes of Nathaniel Chalobah. The Blues are thriving as a result.

Eden’s causing hazards

Rather than imploring him to track back and castigating him for not doing so, as Mourinho did, Conte has given playmaker Eden Hazard freedom.

And the Belgian, Chelsea’s outstanding player in their title success of two seasons ago, is flourishing and punishing opponents by popping up across the attacking third of the pitch, scoring and creating with freedom once more.

Premier League defences beware…

Defensive resilience

Defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool and the regular concession of goals saw Conte take action, switching to a back three. He perhaps also benefited from the injury-enforced absence of captain John Terry, who in his one start in the new formation struggled in the EFL Cup loss at West Ham.

Terry now has time to adjust from the substitutes’ bench. Furthermore, midfielder Nemanja Matic is back on form and has the perfect partner in the energetic and intelligent N’Golo Kante, which is bad news for Cesc Fabregas.

European absence

Chelsea are not in the Champions League for the first time since before Roman Abramovich’s purchase in 2003, and the club don’t have to negotiate the tricky travails of the Europa League either.

Like Liverpool’s 2013/14 campaign under Brendan Rodgers, it gives the players an opportunity to recuperate and work with Conte on a single domestic focus.

They are following his instructions and it is paying dividends so far.

Passion and progress

Conte, who played at the highest level with Juventus and Italy, kicks every ball and shouts himself hoarse throughout each and every match.

He cajoles and encourages, focusing on the positives. The man is a demanding and dominant presence on the touchline, and his team is responding on the field with impressive results.

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