Chelsea fans were full of praise for Antonio Conte this time last year when winning the Premier League title on the back of thirteen victories in a row.
At the time, pundits felt their success was largely due to not having to focus on anything else other than league football, unlike some of the other title challengers who were also tied up in European football action. This meant the Blues were more rested than their other Premiership opponents.
This time? Not so much. Having crashed out of the Champions League, Chelsea sits in fifth place on the league table, eight points behind Tottenham in fourth spot and are in danger of qualifying for Europe’s top competition next season.
For Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, winning the Champions League and the league title is a priority. Coaches that don’t deliver in that department get sacked, simple as that!
If media speculation can be used as an indication of Conte’s future then ‘Chelsea are looking for a new coach’, but don’t tell that to Conte after he was recently quoted as saying “I’m not worried”.
To his credit, Conte may have been frustrated by the lack of big-name transfer signings during the transfer window periods, which could have helped the Blues build on the success of the previous campaign.
For example, the striker trio of Alvaro Morata (who is their most expensive signing this season), Eden Hazard and Willian don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposition as the likes of Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribery and Arturo Vidal.
Conte is treading dangerous waters, if Chelsea fails to qualify for the Champions League it costs the club big time financially which would mean in all likelihood the coach will get his marching orders and get sacked.
It also affects the club’s reputation, including whether or not a top player would want to be transferred to a club that is not playing in Europe.
So, what now for Chelsea?
The club does seem to have this affinity for Italian managers. Claudio Ranieri, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo all managed the West London side. The powers that be seem to be leaning towards another Italian, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, that is, if they don’t snap up Luis Enrique from Barcelona, which seems to be a tall order anyway. Or maybe lure Italian, Roberto Mancini, away from Zenit St. Petersburg?
As for Conte, the former Italy coach, probably loves club football too much, saying, after quitting the Italian national team job that “nothing compares to club football”. It will be interesting to see if he stays in the Premier League if he is sacked? Probably a return to his native Italy would be the best suited for him.
Why are we even so sure that Conte’s going to be out of Chelsea, anyway? If there’s anything Chelsea want to be, it is certainly not to be like Arsenal that has stuck with Arsene Wenger, who last won the league title in the 2003/04 season and have done little since then.
Chelsea does win silverware with a regular turnover of coaches and will in all likelihood carry on with his trend as it does seem to work for them?