5 Reasons Why Chelsea Will Win the 2017/18 Premier League

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea poses with the Premier League Trophy after the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Where has the optimism gone at Stamford Bridge? It was only in May that Chelsea were being crowned Premier League champions for a second time in three seasons and fans were reveling in it all.

Fast-forward to the present and there is an element of doom and gloom in the air.

It all circles around the Blues' slow movement in the transfer market. Manager Antonio Conte may have seen the club splash out over £130 million on new talent, but he has equally seen his squad weakened in numbers, with more players departing this summer than have arrived.

That has left gaps that still need to be filled, notably in attacking areas, as Chelsea start the season with just two strikers and two recognised first-team attacking midfielders who are fit.

Needless to say, there is still over a fortnight remaining in the summer transfer window, which is ample time for Chelsea to sign the extra players Conte needs to strengthen his squad for 2017/18.

With the club bringing in significant funds on the back of Nemanja Matic's transfer to Manchester United and Oscar's move to China in January, there's still money left for the Blues to invest heavily. Even more so if they offload Diego Costa before the end of August.

And let's not forget, Chelsea still have a squad packed full of talent. They may be low on quantity, but they aren't short on quality. That in itself should breed confidence for fans' hopes of a repeat title success.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

With all this mind, we look at five areas that tell us why Chelsea will successfully defend their league crown this term.

            

1. Antonio Conte

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte applauds the supporters following the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

For all the talk of squad depth and mega-money deals, we shouldn't allow it to detract from the reality that Conte is Chelsea's biggest asset. Yes, more so than Eden Hazard and £58 million signing Alvaro Morata, the manager is the jewel in the crown for the Blues.

When he arrived last summer, he inherited a squad that was on its knees. The players' pride had been smashed by their failures of 2015/16, and confidence was low.

In just a few months, Conte rebuilt it and restored pride in the squad and the club. That he engineered a title success that broke all sorts of records along the way was a minor miracle in itself. If we doubted the value of managers in the modern game, the Italian proved us all wrong with that achievement.

Chelsea lacked any sort of direction when he arrived. With no European football and a fractured squad, the Blues had no right to get a manager of his calibre. Somehow they did, and with the former Juventus boss in the dugout this season, the team are going to be a strong proposition, regardless of how many more signings they make.

Conte is to this next phase of Chelsea's history what Jose Mourinho was in 2004.

                   

2. The case for the defence

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - JULY 29: FC Internazionale Forward Ivan Perisic (R) fights for the ball with Chelsea Defender Antonio Rudiger (L) during the International Champions Cup 2017 match between FC Internazionale and Chelsea FC on July 29, 2017 in Singapo
Power Sport Images/Getty Images

This has been an area of contention for Chelsea this summer. The view among fans, if we take social media platforms as an example, has been overly negative.

Rather than looking at what Chelsea have brought in, the perspective has been on what they have allowed to go.

John Terry is no longer with the club, while Nathan Ake was sold for £20 million to Bournemouth and Kurt Zouma is also on a season-long loan at Stoke City.

In their place, Antonio Rudiger has arrived from AS Roma, and Andreas Christensen has returned from a two-year loan at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Ignoring names for a moment, losing Zouma, Terry and Ake isn't as dramatic as it seems. Between all three, they started just 10 Premier League matches last season. They were squad players, and Conte now has two players who should feature more.

That's not because they're any more talented, but rather they fit into the system more effectively.

For Christensen especially, this season should be exciting. He's an ideal replacement for David Luiz at the heart of defence, playing the libero role in the back three. That's an option Chelsea didn't have last season; it was the Brazil international or bust, which is why he was hobbling on one leg come April and struggled to finish the campaign.

And Rudiger is more of a known quantity than Zouma, whose knee injury continues to raise question marks.

Chelsea have five strong defenders for three positions, which is a better prospect than the six they boasted in 2015/16.

                     

3. Eden Hazard

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard of Chelsea pose with the Premier League trophy after the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Imag
Michael Regan/Getty Images

He starts the season injured, but that's probably good news for Chelsea, as it has meant Hazard has been far from the headlines this summer after fracturing his ankle on international duty with Belgium. The result has been the Blues keeping hold of their most talented star without fighting off his many admirers.

What happens next summer isn't important right now. What is important is that Hazard will be at Chelsea throughout 2017/18, and he will be key to them fighting on all fronts for silverware on his return to fitness.

At a time when clubs are paying well over the odds for talent, keeping players is proving better business than selling them. Losing Hazard now would not only mean upsetting the balance at Chelsea, it would also mean ultimately reinvesting everything from his sale into finding his replacement.

Look at Barcelona and the situation they find themselves in with Neymar after his record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain: Not only is it expensive to replace players of his ability, but when the whole world knows a club's bank account is bulging, it leads to inflated prices.

Hazard was a big reason for Chelsea winning the title last term, and he'll be equally vital in them retaining it.

                      

4. The system

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06:  David Luiz of Chelsea signals to his team-mates during the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So while rival managers and fans may not heap too much praise on Conte and Chelsea, we see it every week on the pitch.

Conte's 3-4-3 changed English football last season, bringing in a new dawn for the system that has been adopted by so many other teams. Manchester United and Arsenal are trying it out for size, while others such as Everton and Tottenham Hotspur have also dabbled.

No other team has been as effective as Chelsea at applying it, though. And when we look at personnel, there's every reason to suggest that will remain so.

While Conte doesn't have the squad depth he wants, he does have the players he needs. He has talented and capable wing-backs, with a strong three-man defence that is essential for the formation to work. Not only that, it suits the likes of Luiz.

With Chelsea a season ahead of their rivals and used to three at the back, it opens up possibilities further forward. Does Conte evolve to a 3-5-2 when the time calls for it, for instance?

Chelsea have a flexibility few clubs can boast, other than Manchester City, whose big spending this summer has given Pep Guardiola some serious options.

                 

5. Cesc Fabregas

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea during the The FA Community Shield between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

It's a mystery why Cesc Fabregas is continually taken for granted in the Premier League; he is a genius in possession, and we've seen time and again what he is capable of in a Chelsea shirt.

What he lacks in physical presence, the Spaniard more than makes up for with his creativity. His vision and execution mean he can start attacks early, which is a vital component to any side that likes to attack at pace in the way Chelsea do.

He keeps the ball moving and against stubborn opponents, which is most vital of all. He's the man to unlock defences and pull defenders out of position with the way he gets Chelsea on the front foot and attacking from all areas of the pitch.

Fabregas' style encourages movement, which makes it difficult for opponents to pick up the likes of Hazard, Pedro and Willian. Those players require service to be a threat, which is what the former Arsenal and Barcelona man offers.

There isn't another player like him in the Premier League.