Despite leaving his role as Chelsea boss in 2018 with a Premier League title in one arm and an FA Cup in the other, Antonio Conte’s impact at Cobham training ground lives on with his philosophies embroidered into the club’s DNA.
The Italian boss arrived in West London having just led Italy to the quarter-finals of the European Championships while using a back five, but was hesitant to implement the same shape at the Blues.
Conte initially employed a back four in his five opening Premier League fixtures at Chelsea, however after trailing 3-0 to Arsenal by half-time at the Emirates in the sixth game, the former Juventus manager reverted to what he knew best.
A back five was in full operation and Conte’s blueprints were rolled out across Cobham training ground, keen to prepare the next generation of Chelsea youngsters for life under the new boss’ dynasty.
The first-team enjoyed a spectacular 13-win streak in the Premier League under Conte’s new system, ultimately rebirthing the back five into British football with the likes of England manager, Gareth Southgate, soon taking inspiration from the formation.
However, it wasn’t just the first-team who enjoyed the new shape. The academy prospered as well with the likes of Dujon Sterling making his senior debut, while Reece James blossomed in the Under-18s and Development squad.
Unfortunately for Sterling, although he impressed in the early stages of pre-season under Thomas Tuchel, the defender hasn’t been able to find a role at Chelsea since Conte left, but James has.
James is the perfect example of a youth player at the the Blues of who has benefitted from the Italian’s arrival, which stood the England international in good stead under Tuchel and Southgate.
The 21-year-old, who burst into the first-team under Frank Lampard following an impressive loan spell at Wigan Athletic, operated as a right sided centre-back, right-back and right wing-back in the academy across Conte’s two year tenure.
The former Paris Saint Germain boss initially employed James as a wing-back but he was soon integrated into the back three in the Blues’ FA Cup final loss to Leicester City last season.
Following the loss, Tuchel explained: “Reece played in the back three and we put [Cesar] Azpilicueta up higher.
“[Leicester] changed the position because we knew about the favourite position of Jamie Vardy in counter-attacks and the transition game.
“We wanted Reece’s power and acceleration and top speed against him to eliminate this threat. He did fantastic today. I’m very, very happy.
“It was a decision for tactical reasons, for Reece’s top speed and I’m very happy with how we defended in general today.”
Despite walking away from Wembley empty handed in his new role, Tuchel continues to see James’ future at Chelsea in the back three, report the Mirror, highlighting how Conte’s short-lived time at Chelsea remains intertwined into the club’s DNA.
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Source by Football London