Last season: 1st
Will the real Chelsea please stand up?
A sequence of 1st, 10th, 1st is inexplicable and Blues fans will expect no repeat of their last title defence when Jose Mourinho’s side looked disinterested and briefly flirted with the relegation zone.
The reasons for the disastrous 2015/16 season may never fully come out but Antonio Conte did remarkably well in his first season in English football to get the dressing room back onside and devise a system that got them playing to their potential again.
The move to 3-4-3, after back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal, inspired a record winning run of 13 matches and laid the foundations for their title charge.
However, there are already signs that things may not be as easy for the champions this season.
Diego Costa, the club’s top scorer in the last three campaigns, wants away after being told he does not feature in Conte’s long-term plans, while the manager himself has cut a disgruntled figure in pre-season having openly criticised the club’s transfer policy.
The club missed out on their first choice transfer target as Romelu Lukaku joined Manchester United from Everton instead, and while Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko have all arrived on big-money deals the manager clearly feels more needs to be done to equip the side for a return to Champions League football.
The fact Nemanja Matic was allowed to leave for Manchester United, reportedly against the managers wishes, has added to the sense that not all is well in SW6.
Defeat in the Community Shield to Arsenal shouldn’t be over-analysed but victory would have been a welcome morale boost ahead of a season that features one or two storm clouds on the horizon.
Glass half full: Chelsea go into this Premier League season as reigning champions and won the title by a margin of seven points. They have since added to their squad, bringing in three top-class players for a combined outlay of more than £100million, while Antonio Conte has ended speculation about his future by signing a new contract.
Glass half empty: Diego Costa seems desperate to leave, while the club have been left behind in the transfer market by Manchester City. The return to European football, while welcome, will stretch the squad and other teams now have experience of playing against Chelsea’s system.
New kids on the block: Alvaro Morata – Real Madrid, Willy Caballero – Manchester City, Antonio Rudiger – Roma, Tiemoue Bakayoko – Monaco, Ethan Ampadu – Exeter.
Left the building: Juan Cuadrado – Juventus, Christian Atsu – Newcastle, Asmir Begovic – Bournemouth, Dominic Solanke – Liverpool, John Terry – Aston Villa, Alex Davey – Vitesse (loan), Fankaty Dabo – Vitesse (loan), Bertrand Traore – Lyon, Nathan Ake – Bournemouth, Tammy Abraham – Swansea (loan), Kasey Plamer – Huddersfield (loan), Bradley Collins – Forest Green (loan), Charlie Colkett – Vitesse (loan), Ola Aina – Hull City, Mukhtar Ali – Vitesse (loan), Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Crystal Palace (loan), Nathan Baxter – Woking (loan), Alex Kiwomya – Doncaster, Josimar Quintero – Rostov (loan), Todd Kane – Groningen (loan), Nathan Chalobah – Watford, Lucas Piazon – Fulham (loan), Marco Van Ginkel – PSV Eindhoven (loan), Ike Ugbo – Barnsley (loan), Jay Dasilva – Charlton, Kurt Zoima – Stoke, Mason Mount – Vitesse, Nemanja Matic – Manchester United.
The gaffer: Antonio Conte – The charismatic Italian enjoyed a dream debut season in the Premier League as he transformed an under-achieving Chelsea side into the best team in the country. The 48-year-old former Juventus boss was rewarded with a new contract earlier this summer but has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks, calling on the club to spend more in the transfer market and falling out with star striker Diego Costa.
Star man: Eden Hazard – It was no coincidence that Hazard’s dip in form during 2015/16 coincided with the Blues overall struggles. The Belgian international gives Chelsea the x-factor and will have a huge role to play if the club are to successfully defend their title this time around.
One to watch: Tiémoué Bakayoko – Chelsea splashed around £40million on the France international and his arrival persuaded the club they could allow Nemanja Matic to leave for Manchester United. Time will tell if the 22-year-old proves to be a genuine upgrade on the Serb.
First five games: Burnley (H), Tottenham (A), Everton (H), Leicester City (A), Arsenal (H).
Premier League Title Odds: 7/2
Top Four Odds: 4/11
Relegation Odds: 2500/1
Top Goalscorer Odds: Alvaro Morata 2/5
Star Bet: The champions come into the season as second favourites to retain their title but you could be forgiven for thinking all is not well at Stamford Bridge. Antonio Conte is far from pleased with the quantity of players he has brought in this summer and is desperate to strengthen before the close of the transfer window. He’ll rely on new man Alvaro Morata for goals with Diego Costa seemingly finished at the club. Cesc Fabregas had 12 assists in just over 1,300 minutes of football last year and if he has gained the trust of his manager he can expect to see his playing time increased in the coming campaign. Most Premier League Assists – Cesc Fabregas 10/1