How Morata, Bakayoko, Rudiger can power Chelsea to another EPL title
Antonio Conte won the EPL title on his first attempt last season and the Italian would love to become only the third manager to defend the title in the history of the EPL after Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. Conte has strengthened his squad to achieve that and also progress in the Champions League, by spending heavily and bringing in three major additions, Álvaro Morata signed from Real Madrid for £70 million to bolster the team’s attack; Tiemoué Bakayoko joined from Monaco for £40 million to add steel to the midfield; while Antonio Rüdiger arrived from Roma for £34 million to boost the back line. These players are expected to improve Antonio Conte’s 3-4-2-1 system and I will break down why Rüdiger, Bakayoko and Morata will enhance Conte’s formation and improve the team.
Alvaro Morata: finishing, positioning, and off-the-ball runs
This is one area where Chelsea were not really lacking in last term, however, the fallout between Diego Costa and Antonio Conte has sort of created a void in that position which Morata has been brought in to fill. Diego Costa’s input to the Chelsea course was invaluable last season; he was an inspiration to the team, lead the line superbly and found the back of the net more often than not. Morata has some big shoes to fill as his acquisition by Chelsea has been seen as some sort of compensation for the inevitable loss of Costa rather than actually improving the team tactically or technically. This line of thought is even supported statistically as Costa attempted more shots per game than Morata, completed twice as many dribbles and passes per game, and created more chances. However, Morata retained possession better, had a higher pass success percentage and had fewer bad touches. Ultimately, both of them are different types of striker, Costa likes to force his way through defenders, while Morata prefers trickery. Morata brings pace and intelligent off the ball runs as against Costa’s combativeness and strength. Costa relishes taking on his marker, while Morata prefers to evade his and run through the channels. Morata might not score as much as Costa, but he will bring his team-mates into play and confuse opposition defences more often, which will only increase the goal threat presented elsewhere in the team. His link-up play and mobility is perhaps what attracted Conte to him and his ability to drop off the frontline and combine, or temporarily swap places with either of the other two players that will flank him, Eden Hazard and Pedro or Willian, will befuddle opposition defenses as they won’t have a reference point to focus on, which will increase the goal threat for Chelsea.
Tiemoue Bakayoko: power and balance in the midfield
The major argument against the 3-4-2-1 system that Antonoio Conte used excellently on his way to the EPL title last season is the fact that it only allows for two central midfielders in a time where three-or-four-man midfields are the norm and teams are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of counter-pressing. For the formation to be very efficient, you have to possess a midfielder that will bring bite and energy in that area of the field and i believe that it was this need that prompted the signing of N’golo Kante last season as his unrivalled stamina and dogged defensive work, which sometimes made him look like he was putting in double shifts in every game, helped bring the needed balance to the middle of the park. The capture of Tiemoue Bakayoko from French Champions Monaco this summer seems to follow in line with that reasoning as the 22-year old is another strong workhorse in midfield and will help Conte continue with his preferred formation this coming season. The Frenchman showed remarkable tenacity and physicality for Monaco last season and also made a lot of people sit up and notice that he is much more than just a ball-winner. Unlike the diminutive Kante, Bakayoko has an imposing frame to complement his subtle touch and composure under pressure, he will also bring with him the added aerial threat from set pieces to the team and his combination of technique, strength and positional awareness will be very crucial to a two-man central midfield. One can only imagine how solid a midfield combination of Bakayoko and Kante will be as he’s expected to take Nemanja Matić’s spot in Conte’s midfield. He might not be as good a passer as Matic, but he is better than the Serbian in winning more tackles, getting interceptions and dribbles completed per game. His ability to hold onto the ball in tight spots will come in handy, especially when playing alongside Kante, who is capable of retaining and progressing possession effectively even when up against greater numbers.
Antonio Rudiger: Defensive solidity and versatility
Rudigier arrived at Roma from Stuttgart as a very raw and inexperienced talent who seemed ill at ease under pressure and during his two years in Italian capital, he matured into a solid all-round defender, comfortable playing anywhere across the back four and also being more at ease with the ball at his feet. The young German will fit Conte’s system very well, mainly because of his tactical attributes. His ability and versatility to play virtually anywhere across a back three or four will give the Chelsea boss better options anytime he wishes to tinker with his formation. However, if he sticks to his 3-4-2-1 formation, the 24-year old will be a fantastic addition to the defensive line. He will complement with Gary Cahill and David Luiz in the back three, and allow Cesar Azpilicueta operate in his more comfortable role as a wing-back. Rudigier will pose a lot of problem aerially against opposing strikers and he is also very fast and powerful. His ability to drive into midfield when required will also add value to Chelsea and with his combination of strength, acceleration and sharp decision-making, he could help free up space for his new attacking team-mates by pressuring opposition markers. He would take up position on the right of Chelsea’s back three, a role that suits him perfectly and which he excelled in at Roma.
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