Things took a turn for the worse for Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side last month, as they slipped to disappointing defeats to direct rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.
While the problems mounted for the Italian tactician, he came under pressure early on in his tenure and was forced to make changes to his team with no transfer window open to help his cause.
The biggest issue was Chelsea’s leaky defence, one that had conceded nine goals in six games and was continuing to emerge as the biggest weakness in the team.
Throughout his managerial career, particularly at Juventus and with the Italian national side, Conte has preferred a back three, with two wing-backs that can offer both defensive coverage as well as an offensive threat.
Without his trusted Juve lieutenants though in Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, it was proving to be a little trickier at Stamford Bridge.
The arrival of David Luiz wasn’t exactly the most reassuring move either given his tendency to look vulnerable from a defensive perspective, but the Brazilian can now flourish in the 3-4-3 system that Conte is starting to settle on.
While the return of John Terry from injury could change the personnel, the current back three, which sees Luiz deployed in the middle, allows the former PSG star to offer his defensive coverage while also stepping out and playing his natural game with the knowledge that he has two defenders covering behind him.
Add to the mix the presence of Marcos Alonso on the left flank, a naturally left-footed player who can play both facets of the game well, along with Victor Moses on the opposite flank, and Conte could now have the backline that he needs.
The back-to-back clean sheets would attest to that, and the system also uses Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante’s strengths too to make Chelsea a lot more difficult to break down with little space between the lines.
Combined with Diego Costa’s good form and with Eden Hazard being afforded more freedom to roam safe in the knowledge that Alonso is manning the left flank behind him, it gives Chelsea different dynamics and a solid base on which to build.
Tougher tests lie ahead, starting this weekend against Manchester United, but from what we’ve seen in the victories over Hull City and Leicester, Conte appears to have made the required adjustments since that disappointing defeat at Arsenal to ensure Chelsea are back on the right track.