I recently had the opportunity to witness the dominance of Chelsea FC in person. As the match unfolded, it became clear how a few major themes resonated throughout the team, contributing to their success as a club. These very themes are ones that we can leverage to improve ourselves as coaches.
The players had quickly bought into the ideas and tactics of club manager Antonio Conte. Despite a rocky start to the season, Conte eventually established his set-up and preferred starting line. The consistency was rewarded with 13 wins in a row, demonstrating how players go out onto the field and work hard to deliver his system.
Conte has brought a feeling of accountability to the team – every player gives their all to the prescribed system. The players believe in the system and the tactics – you only have to look at the confidence in the width that Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso provide. They stay high in attack, knowing that the ball will make its way to them as they find themselves in behind defenses numerous times every game!
Eden Hazard is a completely different player from last season, and his work rate is being rewarded with the freedom to attack teams – something that he thrives on. This is in part due to the introduction of N'golo Kante to the Chelsea setup – giving the midfield a safety net that allows them to attack in numbers with confidence.
There is no negative talk or reactions when players are not involved; every player is working as hard as possible for the opportunity to play and contribute, and supporting those who are getting playing time.
Moses spent nearly 3 years on the sidelines, but Conte recognized the work rate of the player and the potential to play as a wing back in a 1-3-4-3 system. Placing Moses in that role was very much a stroke of genius and has seen Moses become the most improved player – brimming with confidence and terrorizing defenses at every opportunity.
This was evident in two examples in particular.
Firstly, in how Diego Costa has focused on his game and cut out reacting to his opponents. Conte explained,“The progress he is making in terms of his attitude are down to his application. He has realised that he needs to improve in terms of how he keeps his nerve.”
Secondly, in how Thibaut Courtois spent almost 90 minutes with nothing to do, and then in the 91st minute Sunderland struck the ball high into the top corner and Courtois had the discipline to react and keep the ball out to extend Chelsea’s winning run.
So what can we as coaches learn from this?
- Study the game.
- Understand team shape and tactics.
- Establish a culture and a mission.
- Sell your concept to your players.
- Recognize hard work in players, encourage and reward it.
- Work to eliminate areas of a players games that have a negative impact on themselves and the team.