The Italian manager faces using a below par defence for the first time in his career in his first ever Premier League match.
As Antonio Conte gears up for his first Premier League match in charge of Chelsea, there is no doubt the Italian will be frustrated with the state of his defence.
The former Juventus boss has built his successful managerial career on the foundations of a strong backline, which has almost always contained the fearsome trio of Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.
Conte has already been critical of his new defence during pre-season. With Kurt Zouma injured, the gaffer goes into a fresh campaign with only John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic.
Terry is a club legend, but he is not supposed to be going into this season as a first choice centre-back after having accepted a pay cut and a lesser role as part of his new deal.
The club’s defensive problems extend to the full-back positions, too, with Ivanovic looking like a liability last season after losing a yard of pace and a lot of confidence.
Ola Aina, who has yet to make his Chelsea debut, is deputising for both Ivanovic and Azpilicueta after a breakthrough pre-season campaign, jumping ahead of Baba Rahman in the pecking order to see the Ghanaian loaned out to Schalke.
To add to the Blues’ pain, their rivals have strengthened at the back with John Stones – who was courted by Jose Mourinho last season – joining Manchester City, while Manchester United have added Eric Bailly and Arsenal look set to sign Shkodran Mustafi.
Chelsea have put all their transfer eggs in one basket, with their focus on Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. But despite the player being keen to force a move, the club’s president Aurelio de Laurentiis has been extremely difficult to deal with and commands a very high fee for his star defender.
There are signs that Conte’s team are increasing in confidence regarding the signing of Koulibaly, but if the deal falls through they will be left desperately short – especially having sent Michael Hector, Rahman, Nathan Ake, Andreas Christensen out on loan, with Matt Miazga and Kenedy to follow.
Chelsea have also been linked with Victor Lindelof and Lamine Kone but any interest seems to be casual compared to their intentions over signing Koulibaly, who they have made bids for.
The former Azzurri boss has gone from having the best defence at Euro 2016 to one in severe decline which conceded 21 more goals last season than the year before, leading to increased pressure to have his team defend well as a unit and to get his tactics right.
N’Golo Kante will have a big influence on Chelsea defensively, but with only him and Michy Batshuayi arriving into the club so far it will be a disappointing transfer window for the second year running if no further business happens.
The panic is starting to set in amongst the fan base who have grown frustrated that the club has only two serious transfer targets, with Romelu Lukaku being chased for an expensive return to Stamford Bridge after leaving for Everton for £28m.
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