Following the home loss to Spurs, Antonio Conte will most probably leave Chelsea and he will have no one to blame but himself
Not even the most ardent defender of Antonio Conte would be able to defend the disastrous season that the Blues have had.
Yesterday’s calamitous loss at home to Tottenham Hotspur (the first loss to Spurs at Stamford Bridge in 28 years) was the absolute last straw and showed why the Italian has to go at the end of the season.
Last season, Conte was for all his success at Juventus and the Italian national team, much of an unknown quantity in England and the fact that his arrival coincided with the touchdown of two more heralded managers at Manchester; Pep Guardiola at City and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho at United meant the Italian was able to fly under the radar and reconstitute the squad from the smouldering wreck that was Mourinho’s last season at Stamford Bridge.
Credit where it’s due; he did an exceptional job with the squad he met on ground bolstered by some quality signings. David Luiz and Marcos Alonso were two players whose arrivals elicited more groans than cheers from the club’s fans and pundits but both played starring roles as the team romped to its second Premier League title in three years.
Everybody pulled together in the same direction and the sight of Conte running up and down the touchline like a crazed rock star dishing out instructions and celebrating goals wildly brought a feel-good atmosphere to the club.
The sensational 13 game winning streak was the cherry on top of the beautifully crafted cake that was Chelsea’s 2016/2017 Premier League campaign as Conte could do no wrong and unencumbered by European football and serious injuries (unlike many of their other rivals), he was able to impart his ideas clearly to his players which resulted in a religious-like procession to the title.
Keen watchers of events at Stamford Bridge have noted the club’s inability to build on title wins in recent seasons (the Roberto Di Matteo fiasco after the surprise UCL win a case in point) so the club’s postseason moves in terms of transfers and other backroom/financial dealings were closely monitored to see if all would remain rosy in West London.
The commitment of owner Roman Abramovich to the £1b Stamford Bridge redevelopment has meant that the big spending era would have to be replaced by more prudent spending but unfortunately for the club, the wrong man was in the dugout.
Conte moaned his way from Juventus after he claimed that the club’s unwillingness to back him in the transfer market was responsible for the team’s failures in the Champions League, a notion that Massimiliano Allegri put to bed in the very next season as he led La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady) to the UCL final in 2015.
Following last seasons’ Premier League title win, the former coach of the Azzurri started making noises about the quality of players he wanted to recruit with names like Arturo Vidal and Alex Sandro on his list.
A lot of the players he wanted would have cost the club big in terms of transfer fees and wages and the board led by chief executive Marina Granovskaia clearly felt that these deals were not doable.
Instead of buckling down to do his work given the added complications of UEFA Champions League games, the former Juventus manager became moody and moaned at every opportunity about the club’s “failure” to get him the players he wanted.
Lacking ideas, energy, verve or the can-do-attitude from last season, Conte’s constant moaning about the quality of the squad has had a negative effect on the team and even some of the star performers from last season: Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Thibault Courtois et al have had average seasons.
The manager’s baffling tactics (stubbornly sticking to a 3-4-3 formation that has been figured out), his terrible record at making substitutions and his high-strung attitude which put him at loggerheads with some senior players like Diego Costa (an almost irreplaceable striker) and David Luiz have contributed to making his position untenable.
The Chelsea board deserves some of the blame for some absurd transfers made this season (selling Nathaniel Chalobah for £5.5m and buying Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley for a combined sum of £50m were supremely daft decisions) but it has given Conte a £242.9m squad(the club’s total spend on transfers this season) and failing to make next season’s UCL is all on the Italian.
Chelsea fans will never forget the magnificent performances of the 2016/2017 Premier League season but when the move to axe the Italian is finally made, few tears will be shed for a man who has chosen to ruin his own good work less than 10 months after being universally acclaimed as a master tactician.