Chelsea have by all accounts been imperious this season. Their loss at White Hart Lane was indeed a setback, although even in its aftermath they sit five points clear at the summit of the Premier League.
As impressive as Conte’s newfound fluidity with the 3-4-3 formation has been, even more sublime has been his ability to coach players to play in positions not previously known to them.
Victor Moses had mostly played as a winger during his loan spells from the club, but Conté saw his potential as a wing-back and he has been one of their outstanding players this season.
Similarly, David Luiz has so far performed to a level not seen from him before. He has been (unusually) disciplined positionally while his range of passing has been utilised expertly given his freedom to step up from Chelsea’s back three. Latest rumours from the club indicate that Conté has no intention of putting an end to such experimentation.
Enter Nathan Ake. The 21-year-old has spent his youth primarily as a defender and midfielder, but has shown a valuable penchant for goals during his time with Bournemouth.
In ten appearances for the Cherries he has scored three goals, enough to warrant a call-up to Chelsea’s first team. His versatility has long been well known, something Conté is keen to push the boundaries of.
Conte says Ake could play in the back three or midfield and he will look in training to see if he could also play wing-back. #CFC
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 8, 2017
As previously mentioned, the Italian manager’s tactics at wing-back have been one of his masterstrokes this season. Having said that, there has been concern at the club that there is insufficient cover for the likes of Moses and Marcos Alonso, although such concerns appear to be quickly abating.
Kurt Zouma clocked 90 minutes against Peterborough on Sunday for the first time in eleven months, and his return could free César Azpilicueta to assume a wing-back position.
Ake’s return to the club only adds to these options, as the Stamford Bridge seek to bolster their squad for the second half of the season.
A concern for Chelsea fans would of course be the prospect of Ake rotting on the Blues’ bench, no longer benefiting from the first team football that has been afforded to him at Bournemouth. There is merit to such concerns, although he will fit in just fine at Stamford Bridge if the following speculation is to be believed.
A sign of what Ake is like:after breaking through into 1st team,he still went to games at #cfc (he wasn't playing in) by tube with the fans
— Simon Johnson (@sjstandardsport) January 7, 2017
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena