Around this time last year, the final whistle had the bridge was greeted with raucous roars from the Shed End; Chelsea had just completed a league double over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, sitting comfortably at the summit of the table seven points ahead Tottenham. Manager Antonio Conte glibbly shared a passionate hug with every member of his backroom staff before briskly walking down the tunnel to the applauds of the fans, everything looked like it was going to be rosy and red lettered forever. By May, the Italian was lifting his first trophy as a Chelsea manager. A year on everything after that glorious triumph, Chelsea and their at times befuddled Italian tactician have cut a figure from agitated to unconcerned, his hoofbeats has regressed from that of horses to zebras – there was no excessive celebrations in his Wacko Jacko styled suits anymore. How could a team who were so good, other teams followed suit with there formation be so terrible in less than a year? Look no further, Antonio Conte is the biggest culprit, he systematically began to toss away a team he had built for reasons only him can justify.
In June of 2017 barely a month after Chelsea were crowned England victors, Conte in his infinite wisdom thought the best way he would let Diego Costa know he was surplus to requirement was to send him a text message which reads ‘Hi Diego, I hope you are well. Thanks for the seasono [sic] we spent together. Good luck for the next year but you are not in my plan.’ Subsequently, it was revealed that Conte was acting on his own and that there was never a consensus to let the Spaniard leave at the time; everyone knew Diego Costa was a difficult personality but the Italian was beginning to show flashes of one who thought he could stand toe to toe with the hierarchy of the club – Diego Costa never played for Chelsea again. Just before the current season began, Nemanja Matic joined rivals Manchester United – two of the vital players who just won the league were no longer on Abrahmovic’s payroll. Chelsea needed replacements, they were Alvaro Morata and Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko; these where inferior qualities to the ones the let go, it was inevitable the quality of play was going to drop.
Conte should have just taken the the players he had and try to work his magic with the players at he had, Italian turned his pres conferences into a moaning session relaying to the press how the board has been moribund to his wants, insinuating the board has gotten a bunch of ‘fakements’ who he couldn’t work with. If you need a barometer to measure how much the former Juventus manager moaned, check this, between September and January, Conte complained in twelve different conferences trying make the Emenalo and co look like they were joltheads. Reports began to surface about how those who call the shorts where displeased at Conte’s rhetorics – of course, the players were not left out – who would enjoy being occasionally subtly attacked as not being good enough? In the turn of 2018, Conte failed to register a win in the first 5 games, his lack of focus to try to fix his team’s loopholes had shifted from moaning to calling verbal attacks with Jose Mourinho.
Fast forward to April, no one needed a win inside Stamford Bridge more than Conte, and ultimately as his team have done so often this season, fell short. It was another nail rammed into the coffin of the Italian, who cut an isolated, hopeless figure over the course of the afternoon. Even his theatrics on the touchline was quelled somewhat as he was limited to a brief fist pump. Conte seems drained and unable to change the course of a Chelsea season that has badly lost its way. With just five wins from 19 games in 2018, the team is not only lacking confidence but personality too. A decision on the Italian’s future could’ve been made long ago but it seems keeping him around has made matters worse at Chelsea. He will almost certainly leave at the end of the season, especially with the Azurri job up for grabs but after such a promising start to his Chelsea career, Conte finally buries himself in shame as Thursday night football beckons for Chelsea
Written by Temitope Adepoju