Chelsea manager Antonio Conte planned to switch to a 3-4-3 system as early as last summer, according to former assistant manager Steve Holland.
The former Juventus boss officially took charge of the Blues following Euro 2016 and began life in English football by using four at the back, but abandoned that formation in September following successive defeats at the hand of Liverpool as well as Arsenal.
That switch is regarded as a key moment in the Blues’s season as they marched to the Premier League title after that 3-0 loss at the Emirates Stadium, but Holland insists the Italian tactician had planned the change much earlier.
“Antonio said to me at the end of last season ‘I think the team can play 4-3-3 with wingers wide, I also think they can play 4-4-2 with wingers wide’. Then he asked me how often they’d played with three at the back in my time, he asked me that question,” Holland said, as reported by the Evening Standard.
“I said never, Chelsea have never played three at the back. He said ‘I think there is a 3-4-3 there as well with the players we have, but because they’ve never done it before it’s not going to be the first thing I visit’.
“We played Real Madrid in the summer, 4-4-2 with wingers wide which we’d trained for a couple of weeks. At that point he decided that wasn’t the best road, he then went 4-3-3, which is what we did for the first three games of the PL season going into the international break.
“We won the three games though the performances weren’t always fantastic, then we had the two games you’re talking about and he decided more or less at half-time of the Arsenal match that we’ve done this, we’ve done that it’s time for this. The rest, as they say is history.
Holland, who worked as Conte’s assistant this season, has since left his role to take up a full-time no.2 role under Gareth Southgate with the England national team and will be on the bench for tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland.