Forget Rio, the action is in SW6



Diego Conte. Picture by Action Images

Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

Who needs Special Ones when you’ve got Animated Ones? With touchline sprints, pirouettes and long jumps that wouldn’t have disgraced Rio, Antonio Conte instantly endeared himself to Blues fans as he managed a winning start to the new season.

The image of him dashing halfway to the Shed to high-five supporters in the front row after Diego Costa fired home a late, late goal for a 2-1 victory over West Ham on Monday is one that will live long in the memory.

This is a manager who simply cannot bottle up his emotions… and is all the more entertaining for it.

Next up is a trip to Watford in the Premiership this weekend, then the hosting of Bristol Rovers in the League Cup (or whatever it’s called this week) on Tuesday.

That’s a game that will allow him to give a start to everyone who has missed out so far; notably Cesc Fabregas, who made way for newcomer N'Golo Kante, the £32million signing from Leicester.

“I don't know if I’ll sleep tonight because the adrenaline is high,” the manager said after the frantic ending to the West Ham match. Fans felt much the same.

It was shaping up to being one of those possession-filled, but ultimately frustrating, games – the kind Chelsea regularly made their own during last season’s downbeat campaign.

There may be slightly more fluency detectable at Liverpool and Manchester United in these early-season matches, but nobody can doubt Conte has hiked the overall fitness levels of all the players.

Jose Mourinho (remember him?) handed the physical development side over to his sidekick Rui Faria at the Bridge. Last season, that was found wanting as complacency replaced endeavour and hunger.

Conte praised the Blues’ ‘intensity’ after Monday’s win. He wasn’t joking.

It means, astonishingly, that the Italian is now unbeaten in 28 successive league home matches as a club manager since January 2013.

With Eden Hazard back on form, Costa looking even more like grumpy Captain Haddock – but finding the back of the net, and Branislav Ivanovic having a barnstormer of a game, it’s as positive a start as anyone could wish for.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

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