When the European Championships are over this summer, the summer ahead for Chelsea and their supporters will be an intriguing one to say the very least. The appointment of Antonio Conte should be considered somewhat a coup for the club given their below par campaign last season. The current Italian manager is a manager who favours a cut throat approach and will not tolerate anything but the best. His approach is a very tactical way of thinking and has a highly structured methodology; his success with Juventus has displayed this. What Conte has to consider straight away is how he will set up the Chelsea team in terms of formation and who fits into his system and their personal characteristics. Already Chelsea have been linked with a number of stars however it is still wide open to see who Conte brings to Stamford Bridge and with not having the lure of European Football next season the club may not have the same attraction as it has possessed in years gone by.
The thinking straight away would have to be that the Italian manager will look to install a 3 man defence policy at the club with the option to play with a 3-5-2 formation moving into a 3-4-3. If this move does take place within the team it will look to be a struggle to see where some of the current players will fit into this formation. César Azpilicueta has already been linked with a move away from the club with the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United sniffing around to acquire his services, and the full back might just find that unless he can fit in as a right centre back or a left centre back then his time at Stamford Bridge could be over as his style of fullback makes him very difficult to move into that wing back position down either flank. Juan Cuadrado is a player that could find his Chelsea future resurrected with the appointment of Conte and the change in system. The Colombian international knows the right wing back position well and excelled during the previous campaign with Juventus playing in that role. Branislav Ivanović and Gary Cahil might just be panicking over their futures with the club, both players experienced a poor season and from Conte’s high standards he may just look into bringing in new and experienced players to play in the heart of his defence. Kurt Zouma would be an almost certainty to get into the side, and with Conte identifying Leonardo Bonucci who is highly regarded as one of the best centre backs in world football as a target he is certainly aiming high. The likelihood of acquiring Bonucci would have to considered massively unlikely, however a move for PSG defender Marquinhos, Real Madrid’s Raphaël Varane and possibly an approach to go back and try and get John Stones from Everton are all a possibility at this stage.
The wide areas for an Antonio Conte side are key to how the team plays, and currently at the club there are very few possibilities to bring into the side. Most of the early talk this summer for the incoming Chelsea manager has been linking the club with moves for new centre midfielders, N’Golo Kanté of Leicester, Radja Nainggolan from Roma and more recently Axel Witsel of Zenit but the fullback/wing back position might possibly be the most important decision Conte will make. As previously stated Juan Cuadrado returning to the club gives him that option down the right side, however there could certainly be a new arrival down either side. Napoli fullback Elseid Hysaj has really used the European Championships to make a name for himself for clubs around Europe. Despite Albania’s group stage departure from the Championships the right back emerged as one of the top players in his position. After enjoying a fantastic season for Napoli, Hysaj could find himself on the radar of a number of clubs and Chelsea and Conte might just include him. The energy and work rate fits into the traits that suits Conte and his delivery from the wide areas is top class. Napoli is looking to tie down the player to a long term deal, but with Conte’s knowledge of the Serie A he must certainly be on the shortlist. Stephan Lichtsteiner is perhaps an obvious name to be linked with a move to Stamford Bridge given his previous working relationship with Antonio Conte at Juventus. The experienced Switzerland international might find himself surplus to requirements at Juventus this summer with the inevitable arrival of Dani Alves, however Lichtsteiner could still prove smart business by Chelsea. At the age of 32 he is an experienced pro who knows what is needed to play in that role for his club, he a no nonsense player who has morally high standards when on the football pitch. The age and contract might just determine whether this move may happen. The other alternatives that Conte might very well look at are a move for his current first choice right wing back with the National Team Antonio Candreva and out of favour Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian . The Lazio man plays right wing for his club but Conte has selected the energetic Candreva to operate as his right wing back for a lot of his time in charge. Reports in Italy believe that Candreva may be available this summer for a fee reported around 15 million which in today’s market would be considered reasonable. Candreva has had two very productive seasons in the past two campaigns in Italy and his display against a strong Belgium side has really made him a name that could certainly be linked with a number of clubs this summer. Darmian is a player who could provide the versatility for Conte with the ability to operate down either flank; the problem is that Darmian needs to get his confidence back. The move to Old Trafford looks to have really stalled the Italian and if the rumours out of Old Trafford are true Darmian will certainly be looking a new club this summer. Conte does trust Darmian, playing him even at centre half for the National Team, but unless the player can get the confidence back that made him one of the best in the world in his position then a move to Stamford Bridge looks a long way off.
The left side may just provide Antonio Conte with even more headaches than his right hand side. Baba Rahman did very little last season to express himself as good enough to be the first choice in this area and as mentioned previous César Azpilicueta does not really possess the attributes to operate in this position, so Conte might just have to consider who he can bring in to play this position. Matteo Darmian can play down the left should a move happen but Conte will surely have alternatives lined up. Ricardo Rodriguez has emerged in recent seasons as a name that is constantly linked with clubs. Arsenal are believed to have made contact about acquiring the Swiss international however with the release clause in his contract expect more to follow suit. Rodriguez would suit certainly suit the Conte system and would cover every area of the left hand side. His ability at dead ball situations would be a massive gain and at the age of 22 he certainly would be a good investment by the club. One player who it may come as surprise to see him at Stamford Bridge might be Daley Blind from Manchester United. Early reports from the arrival of Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford was that Blind might be deemed surplus to requirements, and after playing way out of position last season at centre half Conte might be able offer Blind a role in one of his stronger positions. Blind has fantastic versatility, which would be a massive bonus for Conte and Chelsea.
Inevitably players will come and leave Stamford Bridge and with the methodology of Antonio Conte not all arrivals will perhaps be popular amongst the Chelsea supporters. The level of trust the manager will have in his arrivals will be clear though, and if he gets it right and whoever stays at Stamford Bridge this summer can get on the same wavelength as the new manager then there is no reason to think that Chelsea will not be competing for the major trophies again next season.