One year on, Conte has totally transformed Chelsea

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The Italian may have lost his last game, but he has revitalised the Blues ahead of a huge clash with the pre-season title favourites


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Antonio Conte celebrates a year since he was officially announced as Chelsea's new manager and he is repeating history at Stamford Bridge.

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When he was confirmed as the Blues's incoming boss on April 4, 2016, Conte beat a host of UK-based managers to the post and he has been an inspired appointment by the Chelsea board.

Just as he did at Juventus, Conte has regenerated a depressed giant and is leading them towards greatness, with Chelsea looking to take a huge step towards the Premier League title by beating Manchester City on Wednesday night.

Conte took Juventus from seventh place to the Serie A title in his first season and formed the bedrock for the club equalling the all-time record of five successive Scudetto trophies.

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Juventus are now stronger than ever before as Massimiliano Allegri continues to build on the foundations laid by Conte, who left the Old Lady in 2014 to spend two years in charge of the Italian national team. 

Upon agreeing to become Chelsea manager, Conte was faced with an even tougher task than he found at Juventus. With the Blues having finished 10th last season, just a year after winning the Premier League, there was a fear going into this campaign that they could again miss out on Champions League qualification. 

Antonio Conte anniversary

That, along with leaving Italy for the first time in his career and learning a new language, made the challenge look huge.

Many doubted he would adapt but Conte adroitly avoided any pitfalls by being more like Carlo Ancelotti and less like Fabio Capello. He embraced English life, despite having his family unit based in Turin.

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However, it was success on the field that was on the mind of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich who, along with his board, set Conte the task of finishing at least fourth this season.

With that target looking certain to be met, Conte is now aiming to surpass expectations by bringing success in both the league and the FA Cup. 

During his first year at the helm, Conte has displayed moments where he has been both fire and ice, and he has used his passion to propel the team rapidly forward. In his first press conference, Conte dropped a soundbite that may not be as succinct as Jose Mourinho's "I am the Special One" line, but may one day be regarded as equally as important.  

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"I hope there is a small flame flickering here that can hopefully grow into a blazing inferno," he said. 

The 47-year-old has found that flame. It was the motivation from within the players to banish the shame of last season, a professional pride.

Eden Hazard has proved he can still be England's most devastating attacker, Diego Costa can lead from the front and David Luiz isn't a joke of a defender. Meanwhile, Conte bravely identified John Obi Mikel, Branislav Ivanovic and Oscar as surplus to requirements, despite years of success at the club.

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He also brought in a selection of non-galactico signings, including N'Golo Kante, who has been a revelation and perhaps the league's best player. Marcos Alonso came in from Fiorentina and he has been wildly under-rated by most football fans in England, including many who wear Chelsea's blue shirts. 

Luiz was branded as a "panic buy," and initially perhaps he was, but he has vindicated the decision to bring him back to the club from Paris Saint-Germain. His mistakes have never arrived but a new era of stability and leadership has. 

Conte has also shared his success with players and coaching staff, accepting his December Manager of the Month Award while stood next to his entire group of backroom staff. It was certainly a case of no man left behind, with 10 members of the team joining Conte in the picture.

Antonio Conte MOTM

Modern-day football managers are spokesmen for their clubs and Conte has worn Chelsea's badge with pride. From buying all the staff at Chelsea's training ground Christmas gifts, to taking journalists out for a beer, Conte has charmed English football. A year on, Conte appeared taken aback that it had been a full year since then. 

"The time flies. It's good, it's good," He said ahead of Man City's visit. "Good for me, a fantastic experience. A good experience for me and my family, also. It's great to stay here and, after one year, to talk with you also and have these press conferences. 

"Above all, to talk about winning the league. Because, I repeat, it wasn't sure one year ago that we would be staying in this position."

So far it has been a case of 22 wins, three draws and four defeats in the league. 60 goals for and only 23 against. He has beaten Chelsea's all-time club record by recording a 13-match winning streak but he fell just short of Arsenal's English football record of 14. This is only year one though. Imagine what year five might look like, if he can get there. 

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Stamford Bridge is a place where survival in itself is success as Abramovich isn't famed for patience with struggling managers. Conte didn't accept the job because he thought it would be easy and he is challenging himself on many fronts as he battles against Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Arsene Wenger, Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

Chelsea have yet to lift any trophies and they still have much work to do in the remaining weeks of this season. Victor Moses's injury has unsettled the balance of the team, Chelsea have suffered their first major upset of the season at fortress Stamford Bridge and Guardiola's Manchester City are ready to test the Blues's character on Wednesday. 

 

Conte meets Stamford Bridge for the first time as manager

The moment Antonio Conte walked out onto Stamford Bridge for the first time as Chelsea Football Club manager! Posted by Nizaar Kinsella on Thursday, 14 July 2016

 

City destroyed Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last season and the manner of the defeat was hardly surprising at the time. Less than a year on, a result like that seems unfathomable as Chelsea have regained much of their former glory. 

Conte will be completely focused on City, despite Tuesday marking a year since his decision to come to England was announced. It has proved to be a wise move from Conte, who can prove he ranks alongside Guardiola as one of the best managers in world football. 

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