Conte’s back 3 is genius but don’t forget the P’s!

Antonio Conte has done an excellent job at Chelsea, an outstanding one – let’s get that right – and yes he will be named manager of the season, no doubt about it once his team are crowned champions – but there are two P’s in the Premier League that need mentioning when talking about any managerial honours and achievements – Pulis and Puel.

So Conte, yes his Chelsea team are going to win the Premier League – that is a huge achievement for a new boss coming to the English league, and given how poor The Blues were last season.

The tactics deployed by Conte have made his team stand-out – winning the Premier League using a three-man backline has never been done before. And what makes Conte’s success even more palatable is that he didn’t force his side into his own beliefs from the off.

Formation sensation

He tried to play a back four, and started the season with it – but following a 3-0 demolition at Arsenal in September, he had seen enough and switched. The key to this was getting his star men David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on board – once all these huge characters are with you in terms of your tactics, job done.

Since then Chelsea have been almost imperious in the title charge and the fact some bookmakers are already paying out on Conte’s side tell you all you need to know.

Conte has made his three work wherever he has been, Juventus, Italy and now Chelsea and he will be saluted for his work.

But I would also prompt praise for two of his fellow head coaches, who in their own right deserve just as many plaudits – messrs Pulis and Puel.

Pulis is a coach that divides opinion, direct and boring to watch are two very lazy cliches that often get attached to him – but lets just take a quick look at what he has done this season, forget the miracles that have come before that at Stoke City and Crystal Palace.

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis – RealTIme Images

Last season West Brom finished in 14th, they won just ten games – only Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland won less. Nobody scored less goals than them with 34 all season.

Fast forward to now, again West Brom are sat on ten games won, 34 goals scored – ah, but there is a difference – that record means they are now sat in eighth place, 5 points clear of their nearest rival – and there are still 13 games to play.

That is some turnaround from Pulis and his West Brom side. There was no huge overhaul in the summer, indeed he bought well and cheap in Premier League terms. Chadli, Nyom and Phillips costing a combined £20million – amazing. Still those thinking that West Brom could challenge for a top-eight finish were few and far between.

“Pulis is still quite direct, but there is a real buzz about West Brom now”

Pulis is still quite direct, but there is a real buzz about West Brom now – a dynamism with their play and that coupled with the work ethic that is already firmly in place, and you have a squad performing wonderfully well – hence my belief Pulis needs recognising for his work this term.

And the other P – is Puel. Southampton boss Claude Puel.

They are not taking the Premier League by storm, but the work he has done on the South Coast cannot be overlooked. They are in the League Cup final later this month, and enjoyed a Europa League campaign which included them taking the scalp of Italian giants Inter Milan.

Puel took charge of Southampton, replacing Ronald Koeman – who left for Everton. And again, few gave Puel any sort of chance to do anything like that of his predecessor.

But the Frenchman has slipped effortlessly into English football and is performing brilliantly backed by an outstanding recruitment policy. A top half finish with prospect of a trophy in his first season, hat’s off to Claude Puel. He, unlike so many foreign coaches, is embracing the Saints’ famed academy system.

Yes neither Puel or Pulis will get manager of the year, they probably won’t even come up in most conversations – but they really should!

PS Burnley fans, Sean Dyche will be covered in the coming weeks…


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