London heavyweights Chelsea have secured the title in nail-biting fashion after Michi Batshuayi’s dramatic 82nd-minute goal downed opponents West Bromwich Albion 1-0 and gave the Blues enough points to secure the Premier League trophy.
The match started off shaky. Chelsea were dominating much of the match but Tony Pulis’ West Brom were proving resilient and were able to break through at periods. For much of the game, many thought it could even go The Baggies’ favour.
“I thought it was going to be one of those games, ” Cesc Fabregas said in a post-match interview.
“We had so many chances in the first half then we got a bit nervous. The beauty of football,” the Spanish midfielder added.
Much like their last-gasp win at West Brom, Chelsea’s charge to the Premier League title was as tentative and nervy. While they started their season well, winning their first three matches, they soon suffered a dip in form which saw them win one point for the whole month of September last year. This brought them to eight in the league with memories of their disastrous run last season haunting them.
But then Antonio Conte pulled off what turned out to be his masterstroke.
With Chelsea on the ropes, Conte played to his team’s strengths and decided to field a 3-4-3 lineup. Many pundits were sceptical at first. They have recalled the attempts of different managers fielding unorthodox formations in recent years, like Harry Redknapp’s 5-3-2 with Queens Park Rangers back in 2014, as well as Louis Van Gaal’s famous 3-5-2 with Manchester United the same year — both ending in failures.
But the Italian ignored the naysayers and stuck with his cards. Trusting former Barcelona winger Pedro was the first step into making the system work. With the Spaniard thriving on the flanks, and partnered with the wing-wizard Eden Hazard in the opposite flank, Chelsea had established for themselves a supply line for chance creation.
Then came the acquisition of Leicester’s N’Golo Kante. The superb box-to-box midfielder proved to be a sterling signing for Conte, as the French international turned out to be the main cog of Chelsea’s midfield, proving the most reliable interceptor, and the most accurate provider. His numbers this season have been nothing short of phenomenal.
From there, Conte was set. With his revolution firing on all cylinders, he took the Premier League by storm, losing just three games since the start of November last year, paving the way for Chelsea to win their sixth English top-flight title.