[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ntonio Conte’s impact has started to show on Chelsea’s position on the points table and he believes there are many improvements on team to overcome.
He also stated that four consecutive wins are very soon to name his side as a Premier League contenders.
Chelsea thrashed Manchester United with 4-0 is their biggest win so far this season and moved within a point less than the league leaders Manchester City, after secured 0-2 win against Southampton.
Premier League is the only competition for Chelsea to focus also they are improving with new 3-4-3 formation and individuals as well.
Diego Costa is the top scorer in Premier League with 8 goals including the brilliant goal against Southampton. Eden Hazard also found his rhythm with netting 5 goals so far, which is surpassed his last season total goal counts.
Conte said after the Southampton win: “It’s early for us to speak about title contenders,”
“We can improve a lot. We must improve. After the first part of the season – during January – I can tell more about this run.”
“I’m pleased to see my players working very hard during the game with and without the ball,”
“We know that the road is long but the confidence is increasing. It’s important to get this type of result and performance because, in this way, they can trust more in the work. It’s not important for us to look at the table now.
He mentioned that he has to wait till January to describe the Chelsea’s position.
“If you ask me a prediction or an expectation of our championship, it’s very difficult to talk about this. It’s important to pass the first part of the season. Then, when you start the second part, our ideas will be more clear.”
We’ve reached the third international break with less than a third of the season gone. Some may welcome the chance of a two-week break from the Premier League but to many fans it is an unwelcome distraction. With England almost certain to qualify for Euro 2016 it is essentially a break from football and disrupts the momentum of the season.
However, moan over, what the break does is give us the chance to reflect on the 2014-15 season with 11 games having gone so far. The Blue Sq experts have Chelsea as firm favourites to lift the Premier League trophy next May and very few would argue with that.
Chelsea were not too far away last season, finishing third, four points behind champions Manchester City. However, they have noticeably improved, notably in the signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa.
Chelsea arguably failed to win the title last year because of deficiencies in attack. A forward line led by Costa is much more of a threat than last year when the main forwards were Demba Ba and Fernando Torres. Injuries may play a part in the second half of the season, but Chelsea look justified title favourites.
City have declined a little. Though Sergio Aguero has been in great form, too many of last season’s stars including Yaya Toure, have failed to maintain that form in this campaign and they have lacked the consistency needed to be a threat to Chelsea so far.
Manchester United have too much attacking talent to stay outside the top four and, if they bring in defensive reinforcements in January, could even finish runners-up.
Southampton have been the surprise package of the season so far and most neutrals will be hoping they can continue to “gatecrash” the top four. Having lost so many quality players in the summer, as well as their manager, their form has been remarkable. It may not last but they could well finish in the top six and may be a decent outside shout for one of the cup competitions too.
At the bottom, all three of the promoted teams have started slowly and are in the relegation places after the first 11 games with Crystal Palace also in trouble. It’s unusual for all three promoted sides to go straight back down again, but they will have to improve once the Premier League resumes again in order to avoid that fate.
Southampton’s fantastic start to the season has taken many in the Premier League by surprise. Despite sitting second with nearly a third of the campaign gone, not too many people are giving them a chance of staying in the top four.
But here are five reasons why the Saints can defy the football betting odds and go marching on to seal an unexpected place in the Champions League come next May.
1. Graziano Pelle’s goals
The summer departure of Rickie Lambert to Liverpool was predicted to hit Southampton hard as they had lost their regular Premier League goalscorer. However, Pelle has been brought in and he has hit the ground running, scoring nine goals in all competitions already. He appears to be revelling as a somewhat unknown quantity and has already displayed the movement, technique, desire and sharpness to succeed in England. Pelle, who has plenty of experience at 29 years old, still has a ruthless edge to him that suggests he can improve further and he clearly works well under Koeman, as he hit 50 league goals in two seasons with him at Feyenoord.
2. Dusan Tadic
Another summer signing who has settled into life over here very quickly, Tadic has been mightily impressive in the Saints midfield so far. The established Serbia international keeps things ticking over nicely while adding a combative edge and even a goalscoring threat. Already a candidate for ‘buy of the summer’ even if some were taken aback by his £10m price-tag.
3. No European football this season to distract them
Even though Southampton are attempting to qualify for Europe this season, the fact they do not have any extra games to distract them from their domestic duties can be a big plus in the second half of the campaign. It was evident last term how much no European football aided Liverpool’s ultimately failed title challenge and Saints may well be able to benefit in a similar way. When the likes of Everton and Tottenham are toiling a few days after a Thursday night trip in the Europa League, Saints should be fresh and concentrating fully on their league ambitions.
4. Ronald Koeman
The former Netherlands international was highly regarded at Feyenoord, after earlier guiding both Ajax and PSV to the Eredivisie title in previous jobs. He also won the Copa del Rey with Valencia in Spain to further enhance his credentials. It came as a surprise to some that it took until 2014 for a Premier League club to take a chance on the former centre-back and there were more raised eyebrows when a respected, but mid-table, Southampton were the team to make the call. The start he has made at St Mary’s has made others sit up and take notice, though, and his managerial stock is rising virtually week by week at the moment.
5. Strength in depth
There were plenty of doom-mongers around in the summer when Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren were all sold to Liverpool and Luke Shaw moved on to Manchester United. Calum Chambers’ subsequent exit to Arsenal only fuelled the ire of some disgruntled fans further. However, the millions generated allowed Koeman to recruit widely and he has been astute in the transfer market.
Tadic and Pelle’s attributes have already been mentioned but other summer arrivals Ryan Bertrand, Shane Long, Toby Alderweireld and Fraser Forster have all also made significant contributions. Saints were also able to keep key midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin out of Spurs’ clutches and they now boast a decent squad with plenty of options across the park for Koeman.
If you would have asked people last season who Rickie Lambert was, other than Southampton fans you would have found very few people who had ever heard of him.
In fact just ten years ago the Liverpool born striker was a substitute sitting on the bench for Stockport County in an uneventful match against Port Vale.
Now a decade later the 31-year-old finds himself not only playing in the Premiership but the starting striker for the England national team a fairy-tale story in the world of football.
Lambert was called up to the England team pretty much as an extra, as no one had ever considered that he would be preferred over the likes of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge or Danny Welbeck.
When the Saints man came on against Scotland he immediately made an impact scoring the winning goal after being on the pitch for only four minutes.
“It’s more satisfying still that it was won by a fairy-tale goal from Rickie Lambert,” said Hodgson. “He’s been a breath of fresh air while with us, so happy to be part of the squad, and what a wonderful story that he crowned it with the winning goal.
“He is so enthusiastic; he has been like a young boy with a new toy ever since he joined us.
“He could have gone away with the match ball, with the shot against the post and another that had to be palmed away, but maybe he has to be happy with one goal.”
When the England manager was asked if he thought Lambert had done enough to remain in the squad Hodgeson said: “I guess so. Obviously there might be a bit more competition next time. Daniel Sturridge is hopefully back. Andy Carroll not far from fitness. We’ll see in the next three weeks, but he won’t be being struck off my list very lightly.
Before last night’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova the England manager had little choice but to make Lambert his starting striker after having lost both Wayne Rooney, and Daniel Sturridge to injury, and West Hams Andy Carroll still out.
Lambert did not disappoint the England boss with a fine performance and a goal for the “Three Lions” in an easy 4-0 win.
England now travel to Kiev’s Olympic Stadium where they will face a much tougher team in the 28th ranked Ukraine where they will be without striker Danny Welbeck who picked up a booking after being flagged for being offside, and playing on after the referee’s whistle.
Which must have along with all Hodgeson’s other woes have the England manager thinking: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”
One thing is for sure though and that is that Ricky Lambert will be relishing his time in the spotlight looking to score the winning goal that will almost certainly guarantee England a place in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.