Analyzing Antonio Conte’s Tactical Systems and Possible Signings

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Updated: July 1, 2016

After an unexpectedly disappointing season in which Chelsea finished tenth – just the second time the club has been placed outside the top three since 2003 – Roman Abramovich will surely be prepared to do whatever it takes to prevent further embarrassment and re-establish Chelsea as a top club.

Which means the man he’s trusted to do it, Antonio Conte, has an important task at hand. Though at Chelsea he won’t be in total control of the players bought and sold, his input will surely play a large role in shaping the squad for next season.

Though there are some obvious weak spots in the team that Conte will have to fill, a large determiner of the type of player he buys will depend on the system he wants to play at Chelsea. This in mind, I’ve run through the different tactical changes he might make and the most important buys that could change how next season plays out.

Regardless of Conte’s chosen system, there are some gaps in the squad he has no choice but to fill. Chelsea should try to sign a ball-playing center-back, like Bonucci, and a box-to-box midfielder, like Koke. These kinds of players are needed at all costs.

 

3-5-2

The 3-5-2 is widely anticipated to be used at Chelsea by Conte, with him having used it to bring three consecutive titles to Juventus and 50 unbeaten games in European qualifiers. However, Conte may face more difficulty in using three in the back at Chelsea, with their lack of quality, technical centerbacks. In addition, Conte is known for using wingbacks instead of wingers for added defensive stability, which would leave Hazard and Willian out of their preferred places on the wings.

In: technical centerback (Koulibaly), wingback (Bernat), technical striker (Higuain)

To supplement the defense, another centerback who can play on the ball is needed. Koulibaly, currently a Napoli player, has good technical skills and is a decent passer. In addition, Koulibaly has played at rightback and defensive midfield before, so his versatility would make him a valuable squad player. Not much needs to be said about Gonzalo Higuian, who when playing as a forward brings both a good touch and excellent finishing instincts.

 

4-3-3

Before settling on a 3-5-2, Conte experimented with a traditional 4-3-3 at Juventus, and he may choose to continue Chelsea’s current use of the widespread formation. The advantage of the 4-3-3 would be the possibility of quick, transitional wing play, making use of two of Chelsea’s best players in Hazard and Willian. The overhaul required wouldn’t be quite so big as if Conte decides to use three at the back.

In: fullback (Bernat), attacking midfielder (Goetze)

Bernat is again an option for an attacking fullback, able to play both centerback and fullback/wingback. Goetze is preferable to the current option Oscar as an attacking midfielder, and can also fill in as a withdrawn striker/false nine.

 

3-3-4

A sort of a compromise between the 3-5-2 and 4-3-3, the 3-3-4 would allow for numerical superiority in attack by sacrificing the wingbacks. However, this leaves the back three much more exposed on the flanks due to the nature of the attacking wingers. Juventus and Italy are teams both built on solid defenses, and Conte might balk at giving opponents so much space in his own half.

In: technical centerback (Koulibaly), box-to-box midfielder (Vidal), second striker (Goetze)

Since the 3-3-4 is lacking the defensive support of wingbacks on either side, a dynamic midfield is necessary to make up the transition between attack and defense. As Fabregas is one of the best in the Premier League as a midfield creator, but lacks defensive qualities, Vidal would be the ideal box-to-box midfielder to alternate with Fabregas or Koke depending on the situation.

 

All said and done, at least four or five top players will be needed over the summer to help Conte rebuild a clearly dysfunctional Chelsea team. I’ve laid out some of the ideal, but realistic, signings that could happen, and a clear virtue among them is versatility. Players such as Koulibaly, Bernat, and Goetze all give extra value for their ability to adapt to different positions and roles, and with such a massive overhaul underway, Abramovich will surely want to get the most bang for his ruble.

No matter what happens in the transfer market, Chelsea should be happy to have a top manager in Antonio Conte and fans should be looking forward to what next season could bring.

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