Former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has said Antonio Conte “did not perform a miracle” in leading his side to Premier League glory - but praised his fellow Italian nonetheless after the Blues secured the title on Friday night.
Conte has now won four successive domestic titles as a manager after his triple success at Juventus between 2012 and 2014.
His side beat West Brom 1-0 on Friday to confirm their status as champions with two games to spare, despite an unconvincing start to the 2016/17 campaign.
The 5 key moments that won Chelsea the title
The 5 key moments that won Chelsea the title
1/5 1. The second half of Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea, 24 September
The biggest defeat of Chelsea’s season, but also one of the biggest reasons they have won the title. It brought an epiphany. The way that Arsenal simply tore at Antonio Conte’s defence to go 3-0 up by half-time made the Italian realise something was fundamentally wrong with his team. There were huge gaps in the team structure, and it looked at that point like there was still a huge gap between Chelsea and even challenging for the title. That instantly changed, because Conte changed the formation. In that second half, he went to a three-at-the-back that had been on his mind but hadn’t yet been tried on a pitch. Chelsea immediately went on that 13-game winning run, never really looking back.
2/5 2. Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United, 23 October
Chelsea had at this point impressively won two games in a row, and looked like they were building, but this match showed there was so much more to it than just a temporary transformation from the change in formation. It showed the quantum leap they had already made. There was of course much more to this match than just winning a big game, too, given that the players were up against their old manager Jose Mourinho just 10 months after he had been sacked following a sensational team collapse in 2015-16. They performed like they had a point to prove, and made an utterly compelling argument from the very start, when Pedro scored after mere seconds. It felt like many ghosts from the previous campaign had been banished, as well as any lingering doubts. They were on another level.
3/5 3. Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea, 3 December
Arguably the Premier League game of the season in terms of excitement, but also the game when Chelsea’s winning run became an exhilarating title surge; when momentum really picked up - and that despite City doing so much to try and stop it. This was just another case of turning a negative into a positive, as they completely turned a game. Determined to get their top spot back, Pep Guardiola’s City absolutely battered Chelsea in the first half, and could have been out of sight. Conte’s side just about held firm despite Gary Cahill’s own goal, though, tightened up at half-time and then responded with a series of rapid attacks City simply couldn’t handle. Really, it was the response of champions, and the moment when Chelsea properly emerged as the obvious next champions. That’s how significant the win felt. That’s how much confidence Conte said they gleaned from it.
4/5 4. Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea, 14 January
If the defeat at Arsenal was a defining moment for Conte’s tactics, this win at the former champions was the defining moment in terms of everything else to do with the team. Sure, the final score may make it look elementary, but the week had been anything but. It was maybe the most challenging. Chelsea’s 13-game winning streak had just come ended at Tottenham and their top scorer's Blues career was coming to an end, after Diego Costa got into an altercation at training following speculation he might be on the move to China. It really looked like it could all cave in, when Chelsea would lose their edge, and their nerve. Instead, it brought more progress. The team killed Leicester 3-0 thanks to two goals from Marcos Alonso and one from Pedro, before Conte completely killed the controversy by stonewalling it in his press conference. It sent a statement to Costa to get back in line, and a statement to the rest of the Premier League that there was so much more to this team than one scorer.
5/5 5. Chelsea 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur, 22 April
This may have been an FA Cup semi-final, but it was one with a significance far beyond making the final. It was really the final test in the title race, a referendum on which of the two sides was actually better. That may seem ridiculous now, but that was very much the feel that of week. A stuttering Chelsea had been resoundingly beaten 2-0 at Manchester United, allowing a surging Spurs to cut the lead to four points. It seemed like it was all only going in one direction, but that a Tottenham win could completely divert the destination of the title. There was instead only ever one winner. Conte’s side simply cut Spurs' legs away. Every time Tottenham responded, Chelsea just showed they had that bit more, they were that bit better. The impressive high quality of the two clinching goals from Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic only emphasised it all. It was the story of the season. Every setback only brought another surge.
Although Ancelotti praised Conte for his role in the club’s success, and for introducing the hugely successful 3-5-2 formation that provided the bedrock to Chelsea’s upturn in form, he pointed out that the Italian initially needed some time to settle.
“Conte didn’t perform a miracle or anything, but he did do very well,” the 57-year-old told Sky Italia.
“He imposed his idea of football and had the courage to change. When he got settled into the things that he knows better than anyone else, it made the difference.
“When he realised things weren’t going well, he changed the system completely and found the keys to this campaign.”
Former player Frank Lampard went further than Ancelotti, suggesting that the Italian has all the ingredients to establish a lasting legacy at the club.
Asked if he thought Conte could go on to build a dynasty, former Chelsea midfielder Lampard said: "I think so.
"If you're a Chelsea fan that's what you're hoping for now. The way he's held himself this year and the results have been different class.
"I think he's going to be backed, and he does need backing. It's a great squad of players they've got there. Maybe a freshen up, don't lose your best players and add one or two at the top end.
"They are by far the strongest team this year.
"The consistency, the desire, the quality in the team - they deserve it, and they deserve that moment with their own fans.
"It will be a big test next year. The formation they play won't be a surprise for anybody and all the other teams behind them will be back stronger."Reuse content