On the eve of the new season – and the launch of our special Season Preview issue, on sale now – we take a look back at the five biggest key moments from the 2016/17 Premier League season.
The 2016/17 English Premier League season was full of ups and downs.
There were new managers, high profile sackings and a desperate late scramble to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
We look back at the five biggest turning points of the season and predict what could make or break the 2017/18 campaign.
NUMBER FIVE: Cry Three-Dom
Arsenal 3 Chelsea 0 - 24/09/16
Conte changes his system during Emirates hammering
In the first few months of the season, Chelsea looked like a team without a plan. New manager Antonio Conte appeared out of his depth and there was little to suggest that they could challenge for the title, following on from their disastrous 2015/16 campaign.
In late September, the Blues faced Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, where Conte stuck with the same 4-1-4-1 formation that saw his side lose to Liverpool the previous weekend.
A flat back four of Branislav Ivanović, Gary Cahill, David Luiz and César Azpilicueta were deployed behind N’Golo Kante, who was assigned a holding midfield role. In front of the Frenchman, Nemanja Matic lined up alongside Cesc Fabregas, with Eden Hazard and Willian on the wings and Diego Costa upfront.
It was a recipe for disaster.
Chelsea were rarely allowed to venture out of their own half, as Arsenal – in particular Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez – tore Conte’s men to shreds.
The prolific Costa was isolated upfront while Chelsea’s back four, which missed injured captain John Terry, looked broken and lethargic.
Goals from Sanchez, Özil and Theo Walcott completed a chastening first half for the Blues, who hadn’t lost at the Emirates since 2010.
That prompted a significant switch from the Chelsea manager.
Ten minutes into the second half, Conte withdrew Fabregas and threw on new signing Marcos Alonso for his first Premier League appearance.
The Italian also switched to a more fluid 3-4-3 formation – like the one he used with his national side at Euro 2016.
At first it seemed like a damage limitation exercise, as Chelsea managed to keep the score down in a goalless second half.
However, in their next game, away at Hull City, Conte employed the unorthodox system again, deploying Alonso and the seemingly-exiled Victor Moses as wingbacks.
The new structure gave Chelsea more stability at the back, with three centre halves rather than two. It also allowed their talented offensive players, the likes of Hazard and Pedro, to play further up the pitch, supporting Costa rather than being bogged down by defensive duties.
After the Arsenal result, Chelsea found themselves eight points adrift of league leaders Manchester City.
The change of formation began a decisive 13-match winning streak, eventually propelling the Blues to their fifth Premier League title.