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Lampard: Chelsea were in a bad place, then Conte changed everything

22:47 GMT+3 27/01/2017
HD Antonio Conte Chelsea
The club legend says they are unrecognisable from their shambles last season under the Italian and thinks Cesar Azpilicueta has been their best player

Frank Lampard has put Chelsea's transformation from relegation battlers last term to current title favourites solely down to Antonio Conte's arrival.

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The Blues briefly flirted with relegation in 2015-16, a single campaign after winning the Premier League, during which Jose Mourinho was sacked by the club for a second time.

Guus Hiddink was brought in to salvage Chelsea's season but the club still missed out on European football, coming in 10th in the table.

However, Conte - who was appointed at Stamford Bridge after his contract as Italy boss expired - has turned the club's fortunes around, guiding them eight points clear of second-placed Arsenal at the top of the standings.

The Italian had led Chelsea on a record-equalling 13 Premier League match winning run prior to a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in January, and Lampard said the outfit are unrecognisable from the shambles they were.

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"I can't see anyone catching them," the Blues legend told Jamie Carragher in an interview with the Daily Mail. "They are the most organised team. [Diego] Costa and [Eden] Hazard are the difference. You have got to give the manager [Conte] a load of credit, too.

"They were in a bad place last year. I went back and got treatment for a week last season when I was injured. The dressing room felt terrible. Guus Hiddink was there, they were 12th in the league.

"People were injured, they weren't playing well and you could smell it wasn't right. They needed to change the whole mentality. Conte has done that without changing too much in terms of players. He made a few additions and [N'Golo] Kante has been fantastic, but Conte was exactly what they needed.

"I've seen what he does. He runs them. They all look fit, lean and know their jobs. They are flying. I watched them against Hull. They were a bit off the pace but win 2-0.

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"Arsenal got out of jail last week but I don't see them or Manchester City churning wins out like Chelsea. I like Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp but they don't have the consistency."

After Carragher hailed summer signing Kante for his performances at Stamford Bridge, Lampard added: "Don't forget [Cesar] Azpilicueta. He's been brilliant.

"Costa and Hazard get the limelight but he's basically a right back and a centre half. He is tailor-made for that role. He's probably been player of the season."