Will this be Conte’s best Chelsea lineup this season?

Chelsea left it late again to take all three points at the weekend in a performance that showed they lacked creativity in the final third and weaknesses in defence. While Antonio Conte’s men have got six points from a possible six, they are yet to show any real cutting edge, but as we know, winning games in the style they have is exactly what potential champions do.

While their early form doesn’t suggest Chelsea will win the title this season, they are already grinding out results when needing to. If they can improve performances they will be in a great position to challenge for silverware this term.

It’s obvious there is still work to be done at Chelsea for them to improve. Conte has made it clear he wants another defender and rightly so, as there have been the same defensive issues troubling them in the early stages of this season that were apparent throughout the disappointing 2015/16 campaign.

Conte has been making game-changing substitutions that have without question won Chelsea both of their matches so far. So let’s have a look at their potential best starting lineup and how a formation change could be needed to improve their performances from here on out.

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

As we can see above, the 4-1-3-2 is a less common formation but something that has a lot of potential to work for Chelsea. Regardless of who has been in charge at the club, 4-2-3-1 has been the preferred Chelsea formation, but it has become predictable and is showing signs of weakness.

The 4-1-3-2 formation allows a completely different dynamic to the setup. While the apparent strength of attacking wingers – who both play high up the pitch and drop in for defensive play – is still a key theme, the option of two strikers will provide a headache for opposition defenders.

Forward play:

Michy Batshuayi has to be starting alongside Diego Costa. The two have played less than a half of football together this season and already appear to have a telepathic relationship brewing. Batshuayi’s knockdown to Costa allowed the Spaniard to net the winner in their opening game against West Ham and both strikers were on the scoresheet at the weekend, with the goals finally coming while they were both on the pitch.

Having a striker next to him affords Costa more room to manoeuvre, get in behind and go unnoticed as he is not up against both centre-backs at the same time.

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In the middle: 

Chelsea lacked creativity throughout their game against Watford at the weekend and it was only when Cesc Fabregas came on that they looked threatening. Fabregas creates so much room for his teammates both on and off the ball, as opponents know they cannot afford to give him space. As soon as the Spaniard gets on the ball he is looking for a defence-splitting pass or to bring a winger into play.

Having Fabregas come in for Matic also allows Kante to drop into the deeper anchoring role on his own, where he is at his best. Kante can then break up play and continually feed Fabregas with the ball rather than having to try and be a creator himself.

Service to the wingers and forwards was evidently weak in the game against Watford, while the partnership of Matic and Kante is excellent defensively, the pair offer little creativity going forward.

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At the back:

Chelsea still look lacklustre at the back. The positioning of their defenders was to blame for going behind to a screamer of a strike at the weekend, while an inability to clear the ball properly under-pressure in their first game saw their backline breached.

In an ideal starting lineup, Kurt Zouma would play for Chelsea but as we know, he is still a long way off playing. Zouma’s pace and strength make him a great option at right-back, a position where Branislav Ivanovic appears to be struggling.

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Playing this XI also leaves an incredibly strong bench to change things if they aren’t going well for Conte, although many would argue the likes of Oscar, Matic, Ivanovic, Pedro and Victor Moses should be getting a look in to start games.

Moses has made a great impact in both his appearances off the bench this season, while the likes of Matic, Pedro and Ivanovic have somewhat struggled to show their class in the early stages.

Playing a 4-1-3-2 formation would also be beneficial for Oscar, as although he may not start every game ahead of Fabregas he still has the ability to take up other positions such as on the wing or rotate throughout the season in the number ten role.

While we aren’t suggesting Conte will opt for this style of play it is something that could potentially work for Chelsea and make them less predictable going forward. It is going to be interesting to see if the Italian makes any further signings before the window closes and how they will continue to lineup in the coming weeks.

Should Chelsea opt for a different formation? Does Batshuayi need to be starting alongside Costa from now on?

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Would Graziano Pelle improve Chelsea’s attacking options?

Since the appointment of Antonio Conte, Chelsea have been linked with a number of players and transfer rumours are only further increasing since Italy were knocked out of the European Championship. Graziano Pelle, a surprise package at the tournament, has been linked with a move to the West London club to continue working under Conte, but would he improve Chelsea’s attacking options? Lewis Addley explores…

Graziano Pelle enjoyed a productive Euro 2016, if only for his personal reputation. The first-choice Italian forward netted two goals in his four games and, like the rest of his teammates, was bitterly disappointed to have fallen to Germany in the quarterfinal on penalties.

A widely held view is that Conte exceeded expectations with an Italian squad who were labelled as weaker than previous Italian teams. Pelle has been reported to be a target for Conte from a number of sources.

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Chelsea’s current frontline for the new season boasts Diego Costa, who is ‘100% staying‘ to be part of Conte’s revolution, new signing Michy Batshuayi, Loic Remy and Bertrand Traore.

Diego Costa netted just 12 Premier League goals last season, while Batshuayi’s 17 Ligue 1 goals earned him the £33 million move to the Blues last week. Remy, scoring just once, was used sparingly last season and many have expected him to be on the move ahead of the 2016/17 campaign, while Bertrand Traore’s development continues as he is seen as one for the future.

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So would Graziano Pelle improve Chelsea’s attacking options?

The Southampton striker boasted a strike rate of just better than one in three in the 2015/16 Premier League season, with 11 goals in his 30 appearances. He created 37 chances for his teammates, ten more than Batshuayi’s 27, and substantially beating Costa’s nine and Remy’s four.

Pelle registered six assists, only Batshuayi bettered that with ten, while Costa provided one and Remy none.

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Diego Costa had the best shot accuracy out of the four players with 79%, while Pelle came in at 39% – the lowest percentage of those compared. Batshuayi managed 56% and Remy was the second lowest on 50%.

With these stats in mind it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest Pelle could be a good squad addition, but with Costa looking set to stay put and with Batshuayi eager to develop into one of the world’s most deadly strikers, the Italian would be joining Chelsea with the knowledge he wouldn’t be a guaranteed starter.

Is Pelle a good fit for Chelsea? Will they go in for the 30-year-old striker?

Are Spurs and West Ham right to be chasing this £40m-rated star?

London rivals Tottenham and West Ham look set for a transfer tug of war this summer, with young Marseille striker Michy Batshuayi the subject of strong interest from both Premier League clubs.

The 22-year-old Belgian striker has scored 22 goals with 10 assists in 49 appearances in all competitions for Marseille this season but is looking set to leave the French club this summer.

He may have signed a contract extension as recently as January, but Marseille coach Franck Passi has confirmed that it looks highly likely that Batshuayi will be plying his trade for new club by the time the new season begins.

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“Everyone knows he’s leaving,” Passi has said. “I think it’s included in the budget that Michy will probably be transferred this summer.”

Marseille president Vincent Labrune spoke last summer about the striker’s value and said clubs would have to pay in the region of €50 million (£40 million) to secure his services.

“There is not a single top-15 world club that is not interested in Batshuayi, Labrune said a year ago.

“He is one of the most wanted players on the market. There were a lot of offers for him this summer, but he didn’t want to leave. He’s proving himself on the pitch, and if clubs want him then they are going to have to pay around €50m.”

But should West Ham or Tottenham be looking to break their transfer records to sign him?

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In short, the answer is probably no. But that doesn’t mean he should be avoided either. While he has yet to shine on the biggest stages in football, Batshuayi’s potential cannot be questioned at this stage of his career.

The former Standard Liege forward netted 44 goals in 120 games during his time in Belgium before making the move to Marseille in 2014 – an average of 0.37 goals per game.

He has scored 32 in 77 matches since moving to France, netting an improved average of 0.42 goals per game over the past two seasons and has relished in the role of lone striker with L’OM this term.

A move to either Spurs or West Ham would not guarantee Batshuayi a spot as the team’s first-choice striker, with Harry Kane the main forward at White Hart Lane and Andy Carroll the Hammers’ current lead frontman.

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But that won’t necessarily affect Batshuayi. He has only enjoyed one season as the main forward at any club to this point, while he is far from first choice on the international scene with fellow Belgian forwards Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi all fighting for minutes too.

He patiently played second fiddle to Andre-Pierre Gignac to great effect last season, netting nine goals in 897 minutes of league play – an average of a goal every 99 minutes – and used his reduced playing time to adapt to a new league.

Batshuayi would need to do something similar if he does indeed move to the fast-paced Premier League in the next couple of months, rather than being thrust in as a club’s star striker from the word ‘go’.

Spurs appear to be frontrunners for his signature at this stage, with the lure of Champions League football and Mauricio Pochettino’s reputation for developing young talent both huge positives for the player.

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Though a move to West Ham as they prepare for life in the Olympic Stadium will also excite the youngster, who would be able to link back up with former teammate Dimitri Payet with a move to Slaven Bilic’s side.

He has been Marseille’s shining light in what has been a disappointing season but being surrounded by better players would surely see his goalscoring talents continue to evolve – something he would get with a move to either London club.

In today’s market, £40 million is not quite as staggering a fee as it probably should be. But it would still be a huge amount for either Spurs or West Ham to invest in a young striker who has no Premier League experience.

WATCH: Michy Batshuayi’s highlights (via ScoutNationHD on YouTube):

There are several upsides to Batshuayi’s game, with his potential seemingly huge. But if Marseille demand anything in excess of £30 million, there will be an enormous amount of pressure instantly thrust onto the young Belgian’s shoulders, as well as the football club that signs him.

The striker looks set to play his final game for Marseille in the French Cup final against PSG next weekend but where he will be next season remains to be seen.

Do you think Michy Batshuayi is worth £40 million? Which club would he suit better – West Ham or Tottenham?