Chelsea did not give up a goal in the month of October in the Premier League.
Sure there was the 2-1 loss to West Ham United in the EFL Cup, but considering the B team that Chelsea put out for that contest, it’s hard to consider it representative of their play as of late.
The Blues have won their past four games by score lines of 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 and 2-0, which would be impressive against any team. When you consider the fact that it was against the likes of Leicester City, Burnley, Manchester United and Southampton, it’s hard to deny how impressive Chelsea have been on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously, United have been down, and Burnley are a newly promoted side, but Leicester are the defending champions and Southampton are playing in the Europa League this season. Shutting these teams out in consecutive contests is no easy feat.
So what’s the secret to Chelsea’s defensive emergence? Seemingly, it comes down to two key defensive signings Antonio Conte made during this summer’s transfer window: Marcos Alonso and David Luiz. Alonso has immediately stepped in as the right wing back in Conte’s 3-5-2 system, while Luiz has become the staple as the middle center back. While many were baffled by those two signings when Conte made them, both men have become immediate contributors for a very staunch Chelsea team.
With Luiz and Alonso in tow, Conte has been able to shift to his trademark 3-5-2, which suits the Chelsea personnel extremely well. It allows both N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic to patrol the middle and break up play, while simultaneously providing them the cover they need to be adventurous. Additionally, it has provided Victor Moses, a largely forgotten man at Chelsea after two season long loans away from the club, a career renaissance, as he has become a fixture at wing back at Stamford Bridge. Perhaps most importantly, the three center back line allows David Luiz to play a more advanced role as a pseudo sweeper, a position he is very good at, but cannot play in a traditional four man back line.
Clearly, it’s not coincidence that Conte’s preferred tactical system perfectly suits Chelsea’s current personnel, but how well they’ve played over the past four games has many Chelsea fans wondering why Conte didn’t implement the formation earlier. Chelsea appear destined to utilize these tactics, and no team that faced them in October has been able to figure out how to break it.
In fact, Chelsea’s nine goals against in the EPL this season ranks third in the league behind Tottenham and Everton. However, of Spurs league leading five goals against, four of those goals have come in the month of October. Additionally, Everton have given up five goals over the same amount of time. Over the past month, Chelsea have unquestionably been the best defense in the Premier League, and realistically, it’s not particularly close. New tactics and new personnel have rejuvenated this Chelsea team, and now they look ready to mount a title challenge.
They currently sit just one point behind the three-way tie for first occupied by Liverpool, Manchester City, and Arsenal. Considering their recent form and the growing pains that the team went through over the early portion of this season, I think it’s fair to say that the Chelsea we’ve seen in October is the team we will see the rest of the season, barring injury. For years, Chelsea challenged for the Premier League title as one of the best defensive teams in the league. Now, it appears those days may be back at Stamford Bridge.