Image: Britain Football Soccer – West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea – Premier League – The Hawthorns – 12/5/17 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is thrown in the air by his players as they celebrate winning the Premier League title Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic
London (Reuters) – Antonio Conte spent the immediate aftermath of Chelsea’s title-winning 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Friday (May 12) being bounced skywards by his players but once back on terra firma his mind was already focusing on the next target – the double.
In claiming the Premier League title at the first time of asking Conte matched the feat of Chelsea predecessors Jose Mourinho in 2004-05 and Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10.
Ancelotti went on to win the FA Cup as well and one suspects the insatiable Conte will feel a sense of anti-climax if his side do not beat Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on May 27.
The Italian, winner of three Serie A titles as Juventus manager, has transformed Chelsea from flops to champions in one season with largely the same group of players.
Yet there were moments back in the autumn when things looked in danger of unravelling as defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal threatened to undermine a bright start to the season.
Conte said the drubbing by Arsenal, a game in which he switched to a three-at-the-back system midway through when his side trailed 3-0, was a turning point.
Conte is the only manager in the top flight this term to use all three permitted substitutes in every league game.
He did it again on Friday and once more his touch turned to gold with Belgian misfit Michy Batshuayi, a 76th-minute replacement for Pedro, scoring the goal six minutes later that meant Chelsea’s title party could start in earnest.