Although Antonio Conte stood on the Stamford Bridge touchline as an opposing manager last night, Chelsea fans will never forget his contribution to the club’s history.
They may have begrudged his Tottenham Hotspur team for 90 minutes during the Carabao Cup semi-final, but the Italian is still held in high regard amongst many of the supporters.
After all, it was he who lifted the Blues from their tenth place Premier League finish in 2015/16 to eventual champions around 12 months later.
He is the last Chelsea manager to have orchestrated first division glory, a feat that has so far evaded all three of his successors.
The key to Conte’s 2016/17 achievements can be honed in on one particular match.
Fatefull afternoon in N7
24th of September, 2016. Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea.
This was a damning day for the blue half of London, yet it produced a silver lining beyond anybody’s wildest imaginations.
With his side 3-0 down at the break and fighting for nothing other than pride, Conte decided to make a tactical tweak.
Having started the contest in a 4-1-4-1 formation, the Blues lined up in a 3-4-3 set-up for the second half.
Arsenal still won the game pretty comfortably, however, few could’ve foreseen how significant their guest’s alteration turned out to be.
For the rest of the season, Conte maintained the 3-4-3 approach to awesome effect.
Chelsea won 13 consecutive matches after that defeat by the Gunners, ironically halted by Spurs almost to the exact day of Wednesday’s cup clash.
Only two more league losses came the 52-year-old’s way as the Blues secured their fifth top-flight title with two fixtures to spare.
All because of one encounter at the Emirates.
Tuchel’s turn to try something new
Fast forward to the present and it’s another clash in the capital that could cause a change in trajectory for Chelsea.
Yesterday’s 2-0 victory over Spurs saw the Champions League holders alter their make-up substantially for the first time under Thomas Tuchel.
Due to a fresh wave of covid and injury absences, Tuchel was forced to pull apart his group and repair it accordingly.
On paper, the German’s contingent appeared to tackle Tottenham with their typical 3-4-2-1 arrangement.
However, as the duel commenced and the plot thickened, it seemed Tuchel had tricked us all.
4-4-2 the way forward?
In possession, Chelsea switched to a 4-4-2, in order to tackle the lack of available defenders.
Spurs simply could not handle this surprise attack and were left in a bit of a heap.
It was the complete opposite of what Conte ordered against Arsenal many moons ago, but the result was equally as definitive.
Could Tuchel persist with a back-four from now until May and orchestrate the same glory as his predecessor?
We are not counting anything out…