With so much being said and written about Conte’s appointment and the heralding of a new era at Chelsea, sadly enough for the Blue’s fans, Chelsea lost 2-0 to Rapid Vienna. Here are 5 points that were most noteworthy in the match:
- Midfield Madness
Conte did not experiment much when it came to selecting the team for his first game as Chelsea boss, but what appeared to be a standard 4-2-3-1 formation, often turned into a 4-2-4 on the pitch, with Nemanja Matic and Jon Obi Mikel holding the midfield.
The players available to Conte weren’t the ideal fit for the system and it showed. Loftus-Cheek couldn’t find a way to influence the game from an unfamiliar position and the Matic-Mikel combo struggled to get Chelsea moving forward.
Hopefully, Kante will bring greater energy and positional intelligence, having played in a similar system at Leicester City last season.
- New Mission: Find a good centre-back!
Papy Djilobodji was confirmed as John Terry’s centre-back partner, but in truth Conte wasn’t exactly faced with other options.
Kurt Zouma travelled with the squad but is not yet ready to train as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury, while Gary Cahill is still on his post-Euro 2016 break.
Conte, having worked with Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli with Juventus and Italy, will need to find a reliable centre-back.
- Chelsea will benefit from a longer pre-season
The gap between Chelsea’s first preseason match and opening Premier League fixture last season was just 17 days. Conte will get just over five weeks to drill the majority of his players physically and tactically ahead of their opener against West Ham.
Those who featured at Euro 2016 and the Copa America Centenario will get slightly less time, however, although that shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
Given the double training sessions that Conte has implemented and the emphasis he is already placing on physical preparation, every day will be crucial.
- Ivanovic still an issue
Ivanovic looked particularly sluggish and vulnerable whenever Rapid winger Philipp Schobesberger decided to run at him.
He did transform himself from a fringe squad player into a first-team stalwart with his accomplished transition to right-back but, at 32, it may be time for Chelsea to accept that his future lies in the centre of defence, where his increasing lack of mobility will be less of an issue.
- Juan Cuadrado could be Stamford Bridge’s Dark Knight
Mourinho’s decision to get rid of Cuadrado after just four starts and 15 total appearances in all competitions was wrong. Cuadrado did well at Serie A, and Conte has been clear about Cuadrado’s place in his plans for the new season. Whether Cuadrado can force his way into Conte’s starting XI ahead of Willian remains to be seen, but the Colombian certainly has more to offer than Stamford Bridge has witnessed so far.