Chelsea take wild ride back to the top
WEST BROMWICH (AP):
Chelsea is back at the summit of English football, completing a wild roller-coaster ride over the past three years. After cruising to the Premier League trophy by eight points in 2015, the London club finished in 10th place the following year in the worst title defence in league history.
Yesterday, Chelsea regained the title under new coach Antonio Conte, with two matches to spare, by winning at West Bromwich Albion 1-0.
The first year of the "super coach" era in the Premier League belongs to Conte.
Most of the preseason chatter circled around the arrival of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho at the helm of the Manchester clubs. The power in English football was supposed to shift back to the north, but Conte had other ideas.
The Italian arrived in July with a reputation as a master tactician, after winning three straight Serie A title with Juventus. Now there's an argument for calling him one of the most sought-after coaches in world football.
If recruiting N'Golo Kante from Leicester was a no-brainer, bringing in David Luiz looked fraught with danger.
Both have turned out to be inspired signings.
Kante has bestrode the midfield, breaking up opposition attacks with his perfect anticipation and positional skills and then starting Chelsea's own with his vision and directness.
Chelsea started the season with its tried-and-trusted back four. But with the team having been outplayed in a home loss to Liverpool and then 3-0 down at halftime at Arsenal, Conte decided to switch things up.
There were some key results at key times in Chelsea's title-winning campaign: The 4-0 win in mid-October over a Manchester United side led by former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, three games after Conte's conversion to a 3-4-3; the 5-0 win over Everton on November 5 that was perhaps Chelsea's best all-round display of the season; the 2-1 win over Man City that was ground out on April 5, showing Chelsea can beat a major opponent when not at its best; and the 3-0 win against Everton at fortress Goodison Park in late April, just when second-place Tottenham had closed to within four points, that allowed Conte's side to freewheel to the title.