For Chelsea, after least season’s debacle, the only way is up under Antonio Conte.
In the worst title defence in Premier League history, the Blues slumped to an embarrassing tenth place finish and Jose Mourinho was sacked for a second time. It was certainly a jarring reality check for the club.
Furthermore, the Stamford Bridge side’s current boss is of the opinion that the club is still suffering from the struggles of last year. In fact, the Italian alludes to the fact that the Special One was at the heart of the rut.
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Chelsea’s start to last season was one to forget with the west London side finding themselves lingering in the bottom half of the table.
Humiliating defeats at home to Southampton, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace ultimately proved Mourinho’s undoing. By December, the 53-year-old, who was previously heralded as a club legend, was shepherded out the exit.
Guus Hiddink proved a shrewd replacement yet the Dutchman’s role as interim boss did little more than stop the rot. The Blues were again able to grind out results, but looked a far cry from their title winning form.
Ultimately, it resulted in a finish inferior to that of West Ham, Stoke City and Southampton. Furthermore, only in the final months did players such as Eden Hazard and Diego Costa seem to discover their form.
There is evidence to suggest the struggles of last season have played on Chelsea’s mind this campaign. While, under Conte, the Blues look far better, their performances remain inconsistent.
In big games against Liverpool and Arsenal, the four-time Premier League champions have imploded under pressure. This is all despite the best efforts of one of the most passionate and hard working managers in world football.
Consequently, the club’s Italian boss is of the opinion that the overspill of last season is still taking its toll. The damage Mourinho did in the opening weeks can be seen as an integral protagonist in Chelsea’s undulating form.
According to the Mirror, the 47-year-old explained: “When there are these types of very bad seasons - because we finished 10th in the table – it's normal that something remains in the players. In their minds. In their heads.
“In this situation, the risk is to lose confidence. Also, it's very difficult because you must change what happened last season, and that's not easy.
“The only way we have to change is to work very hard together with the players, the club and the fans. I repeat: it won't be easy to cancel a bad season like last season.”
You can’t say he doesn’t have a point. Regardless of Chelsea’s pedigree, the bottom line is that Conte is trying to turn a team that finished tenth into a top four side at the drop of a hat.
So while many Blues supporters still adore Mourinho, a lot of their imperfections this season can be traced back to his catalogue of errors exactly a year ago. It gives further reasoning for the Special One to be the pantomime villain on Sunday.
Three Premier League titles yes, but he drove Chelsea into the ground last season and it will take months, if not longer, to pick up the pieces.
Do you think Chelsea will finish in the top four this season? Have YOUR say in the comment box below
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