Former Chelsea captain Gary Cahill how Antonio Conte transformed the team’s defence during the Premier League-winning campaign in 2016/17.
The Italian manager’s time at Chelsea will always be remembered for his passion on the sidelines and how his tactics influenced to the rest of the league.
Conte won the Premier League title in his first season in charge, but the Blues initially had a bumpy start with three losses in the first six games.
But it changed after Conte made a decision to switch to a back three at half time while trailing 3-0 to Arsenal. Chelsea still lost the London derby but went on to win 13 games in a row after the system switch.
Cahill played an instrumental role in Conte’s back three, along with David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Speaking to Jamie Redknapp on the Daily Mail, Cahill said: “He was a great manager. Conte said, ‘Right, I’m changing this’.
“He knows that formation inside out, and there was not one player on the pitch who did not know his role inside out. If you didn’t know it, you didn’t play.”
Against textbook defending
Conte made a big decision to deploy Azpilicueta who had never really played as a centre-back then on the right side of the back three. Cahill was also predominantly a right-sided centre-back, but was given the task to play on the left.
“I spoke to Conte and he was adamant it would work. The Joses, the Contes. The attention to detail, the way they think. They never switch off. You have that confidence; an arrogance in a good way.”
Cahill who joined Crystal Palace last summer said Conte demanded something against textbook defending.
“I’ve always been taught ‘stay goal-side, stay goal-side, stay goal-side’. But Conte wanted you to screen in front. There are different elements to defending.”
Conte’s back three defence was so dominant in that season that almost every other club in the Premier League tried to copy his blueprint.
Unfortunately, Conte’s second season was not as impressive. Chelsea missed out on the Champions League spot after finishing fifth and the 50-year-old was shown the exit door at the end of the season.