Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte is tasked with returning Chelsea to title contention after their woeful 10th-place finish last term. Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Looking to immediately bolster a vastly underperforming Chelsea squad still reeling from a woeful 2015/16 campaign that saw the club bid farewell to Jose Mourinho for the second and surely final time prior to a mid-table finish during the second interim reign of Guus Hiddink, new manager Antonio Conte immediately sought to bolster his strikeforce with the £33m ($43m) addition of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille.

The club have also moved to complete a £30m deal for N'Golo Kante, who proved nothing short of a revelation for surprise champions Leicester City last term following a relatively low-key switch from Ligue 1 outfit Caen. An endlessly determined and incredibly durable midfield engine, the ultra-fit 25-year-old registered more tackles and interceptions than any other player during his debut campaign in the Premier League.

Those are the only two transfers completed so far, although rumours persist that Chelsea are seeking to secure an expensive return to Stamford Bridge for Batshuayi compatriot and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku. Their outgoing business includes the usual raft of seemingly endless loanees, including Baba Rahman to Schalke and Nathan Ake to Bournemouth.

The almost mythical Papy Djilobodji has become David Moyes' first signing at Sunderland and ineffective winger Mohamed Salah's permanent move to AS Roma is now official. It seems that Atletico Madrid favourite Diego Costa is staying put for now, while veteran goalkeeper Marco Amelia has been released at the end of his short-term contract. Forward duo Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato have also both left following lacklustre loan spells at Stamford Bridge.

Last season

Premier League: 10th

FA Cup: Quarter-finals

League Cup: Fourth round

Champions League: Round of 16

Top scorer: Diego Costa (16)

Michy Batshuayi
New Chelsea signing Michy Batshuayi scored 26 goals for Marseille last season. Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Manager - Antonio Conte

The passionate Italian was one of the most talked about individuals during a relatively tame European Championships, drawing plaudits for his tactical nous but also delighting pundits and supporters alike with his flamboyant touchline theatrics. Whether it was him booting the ball away in frustration, berating players and referees, jumping on the dugout or even busting his nose while celebrating the Azzurri's opening goal against Belgium, you could not fail to be captivated by a manager who so obviously lives and breathes every game of which he is a part.

A serial winner and influential figure as a player with Juventus despite by his own admission lacking the talent levels of teammates such as Zinedine Zidane, Conte's sheer drive and determination has led him to similar success in management. He knows what it takes to resuscitate a wounded giant, too, having led the Bianconeri to their first Serie A championship in nine years back in 2011/12 and following that with further consecutive titles.

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte is renowned for his entertaining touchline antics. Matej Divizna/Getty Images

His return to club management after a two-year stint with Italy is borne out of a desire to "go back to breathe the grass" and Conte says he hopes to engineer a "small flickering flame that can eventually grow into a blazing inferno". Although traditionally fond of a 3-5-2 formation, the former Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena boss is not restricted to just one system and has spent much of pre-season experimenting with a 4-2-4/4-4-2 system. He has also more recently shown a willingness to line up 4-3-3.

Key player - Eden Hazard

No single player captured the misery of Chelsea's sorry title defence and alarmingly swift fall from grace more than Hazard. Deservedly voted as the PFA Player of the Year in 2015 after a fantastic campaign in which he racked up 19 goals and no shortage of assists across all competitions, he regressed dramatically last term and became the focal point of the club's failings. Incredibly for a man of such undeniable talent, it took him until April just to register a first league strike.

Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard has impressed for Chelsea during pre-season after captaining Belgium at Euro 2016. JAY LAPRETE/AFP/Getty Images

However, with transfer speculation concerning the likes of Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain now having died down and Hazard apparently happy to stay and work with Conte, the onus will be on him once again to lead the Blues' charge. The pre-season signs have been largely encouraging, with the player notching three times in total and particularly impressing during the recent 4-2 defeat of Werder Bremen. He also captained Belgium at Euro 2016 in the absence of Vincent Kompany, scoring a fantastic solo effort in the 4-0 rout of plucky Hungary, but powerless to prevent a shock quarter-final exit at the hands of Wales.


After such a traumatic and frankly embarrassing 2015/16 season, the minimum expected of Conte will be to restore Chelsea's top-four credentials and regain their place in the lucrative Champions League. With both Manchester clubs now boasting proven world-class managers in Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, and Tottenham having established themselves as genuine title challengers under Mauricio Pochettino, the title race should prove more fiercely contested than ever.

IBT prediction - 3rd

Conte will breathe new life into Chelsea and his strict disciplinarian style and focus on fitness means that he simply will not tolerate any lasting dip in form. Few would be surprised if he did lead them to a sixth top-flight title in his maiden campaign at the helm, although simply restoring the lost fear factor and a place in the top four will suffice to begin with.