Hail Chelsea's Fab Five
Chelsea's resurgence this season is down to the rejuvenation of this quintet
(Pedro Rodriguez 45, Victor Moses 51)
(Christian Eriksen 11)
Chelsea returned to the top of the Premier League yesterday morning (Singapore time) with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Much has been said about Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 formation which has worked wonders, but the Blues' resurgence this season can be attributed to five key players who not too long ago looked like they do not have a future at Stamford Bridge.
1 EDEN HAZARD
Eden Hazard (far left). PHOTO: REUTERS
As Chelsea wallowed in their own mediocrity last season, Hazard bore the brunt of the backlash.
The 25-year-old Belgian was booed by the Chelsea fans, many of whom saw him as one of the main men in the dressing room who plotted Jose Mourinho's exit from Stamford Bridge.
It took Hazard until April - one month before the 2015/16 Premier League campaign ended - before he scored his first league goals of last term.
This season, he has already scored seven Premier League goals in 13 games, three more than what he mustered in the whole of the previous campaign.
Under Conte, Hazard plays a key role on the left of the front three of the Blues' reinvigorated attack, although he is given plenty of creative licence to roam.
When Chelsea thumped Manchester United 4-0 last month, he was virtually everywhere as he led the destruction of his former manager's team.
Against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday morning, he produced a superb second-half performance.
"He's back to the form when he won Player of the Year (in 2015)," said ex-Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy after Chelsea's win yesterday morning.
2 DAVID LUIZ
David Luiz (far right). PHOTO: AFP
An object of ridicule after his first stint at Chelsea, eyebrows were raised when the Blues forked out £30 million ($53.5m) to bring the Paris Saint-Germain defender back to Stamford Bridge during transfer deadline day in August.
But once Conte switched to a three-man backline with the Brazilian playing in the centre after a heavy defeat by Arsenal in September, Luiz just seems to get better and better.
The centre back, who used to display a reckless tendency to neglect his defensive duties, is now the first launchpad of Chelsea's attacks.
Recognising his rare attacking qualities from the back, Conte has given the 29-year-old the duties of a deep-lying playmaker.
With his excellent passing ability and offensive instincts, he is able to turn defence into attack instantly.
His maturity and reading of the game have significantly improved.
In former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand's words, Luiz is running the game "like a midfielder".
3 VICTOR MOSES
Victor Moses (second from right). PHOTO: AFP
His future looked far from rosy just a few months ago, when West Ham turned down the chance to turn his loan move into a permanent one.
In fact, the Hammers were the third club he spent temporary spells with since joining Chelsea in 2012, the others being Liverpool and Stoke City.
But so superb has Moses been in his new wingback role that rumours are going around that Barcelona are about to make a move for the 25-year-old Nigerian.
For the first time since moving to Chelsea, he is trusted by his manager and he has responded brilliantly.
His incredible stamina on the right of Conte's 3-4-3 formation was in full display against Spurs, as he scored the winning goal - his third Premiership strike of the season - after running the entire length of the field to join a counter-attack.
Named the Man of the Match, Moses was solid in the tackle and also a threat going forward.
4 NEMANJA MATIC
Nemanja Matic. PHOTO: AFP
Matic's rejuvenation and the arrival of N'Golo Kante is not coincidental.
When Matic was played alongside Cesc Fabregas in midfield last season, the former's duty was a strictly defensive one.
His lowest point came last October, during Chelsea's 3-1 home defeat by Southampton.
Introduced as a half-time substitute, then manager Mourinho took him off in the 73rd minute.
But, with Kante around, the Serb has been given the freedom to move further upfield, and his improved performances showed what Chelsea's midfield was sorely lacking in their lacklustre 2015/16 campaign.
Credit to Conte for seeing the surprise aspect of his play.
Last season, the 28-year-old mustered just two assists the entire season.
This term, he already has six and is second on the Premier League assist chart, trailing behind Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne who has seven.
5 DIEGO COSTA
Diego Costa. PHOTO: REUTERS
His last campaign with Chelsea was such a wretched one that a move away from Stamford Bridge seemed inevitable.
The lacklustre displays, which saw him score just 12 Premier League goals, were uncharacteristic of a striker who in recent years was rated as one of the best in Europe.
Add to that his fiery temperament and a reputation for resorting to dirty tactics on the pitch, Costa was looking increasingly like a liability.
But Conte's appointment gave Costa a new lease of life.
His new-found ability to control his emotions has earned praise from the Italian.
The goals are flowing again, too.
His 10 goals in 13 matches have propelled the 28-year-old Spaniard to the top of the scoring chart, a position he shares with Man City's Sergio Aguero.
i have definitely found a home here. Chelsea is my club and i’m pleased to be playing this season. The manager gave me the opportunity to express myself and i’m relishing it at the moment. i just want to keep on playing football and enjoying myself.
— Chelsea midfielder Victor Moses