Antonio Conte: How Will Chelsea Look Next Season?

Belgium team mates Michy Batshuayi, left, and Eden Hazard.
Belgium forwards and future Chelsea team-mates Eden Hazard, right, and Michy Batshuayi at Le Haillan, France, June 30. Hazard and Batshuayi may play in attack together at Stamford Bridge next season. Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty

After the most disastrous English Premier League title defense of the modern era, can Chelsea right itself under new manager Antonio Conte?

Last season was, without exaggeration, a screw-up of immense proportions, as the club contrived to finish tenth and jettisoned Jose Mourinho on the way.

Will it fare better under the current Italy manager? And what moves still need to be made in the transfer market? Newsweek attempts to find some answers.

Defense

Can John Terry's creaking limbs last one more season?

The Chelsea captain, leader, icon, lightning rod for controversy, signed a year's extension on his current deal in May for one more year at Stamford Bridge.

How Conte, a defensive expert, deals with Terry will probably come to define his first season in charge.

At Juventus, he had three of the world's best center backs in Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci. Among those, there was a lovely balance—Chiellini the archetypal hard man, Barzagli the in-betweener, Bonucci the cultured passer.

Gary Cahill would fill the first position, Terry the second, and for the third? Conte has the burgeoning promise of Kurt Zouma available to him, but Chelsea has been courting John Stones for a year now and that is unlikely to stop.

Conte will want a 3-5-2 formation, like he played at Juventus. That means Terry in the center, and two of Zouma, Stones and Cahill to either side. It could be the England man who loses out.

Predicted line-up : Zouma-Terry-Stones

Midfield

Conte's preferred formation needs wing-backs, and thankfully for the Italian, Chelsea is fairly well-stocked in this area.

On the left, expensive summer 2015 recruit Baba Rahman would be ideal, but Mourinho had questions over his defensive ability and those are likely to be shared by Conte. Cesar Azpilicueta is steadier but a less dynamic option.

Juan Cuadrado, like Rahman, looked to be an expensive mistake, but he has returned to Chelsea a better player after a loan spell back at Juventus. The Colombian should occupy the right wing-back position.

In the center of midfield, much depends on who departs. Cesc Fabregas will be the creative lynchpin, surrounded by two bruisers to do his running—probably Nemanja Matic, who will hope to find the form of two seasons ago, and one other "destroyer." N'Golo Kante, linked this week, would be perfect, if expensive. If Chelsea fails to land him, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the highly-rated, strapping young midfielder will hope for more first-team action.

The likely shape of this Conte team doesn't leave much room for extra creative types. Willian, excellent last season, will stay, but Oscar may be on his way out.

Predicted line-up : Azpilicueta-Kante-Fabregas-Matic-Cuadrado

Attack

Michy Batshuayi is all but done and dusted, for a cool £33 million ($44.5 million), and for that money, he will expect to be the main striker.

Here's a nice problem for Conte to have, then. Does he play Eden Hazard, back on song for Belgium at UEFA Euro 2016, in behind his national team-mate? Or does he try to shoehorn Diego Costa and Batshuayi into a partnership that already looks awkward before it has spent a minute together? Good questions to have, which is not to say that they are easy to answer.

Predicted line-up : Hazard-Batshuayi