Antonio Conte: Is he the man for Chelsea?
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on February 29, 2016
Antonio Conte has been heavily reported as the next Chelsea manager, allegedly he can be confirmed as the man to take the seat at Stamford Bridge in the coming days. But has he got what it takes to manage a top Premier League club? The 46-year-old, who is currently managing the Italian national team, has spent his entire managerial club career in Italy, he might know the once great Serie A inside and out but the Premier League is on a completely different level not to mention he’s got a tough task reviving this mentally fractured and underachieving Chelsea side.
What can he bring to Chelsea?
Hiddink may have rejuvenated the low morale in the dressing room, but it’s far from what it should be. What Conte has been known for in the past is his strong relationships and ability to bond with his players; Arturo Vidal, when asked about Conte, said “I could play for him forever” as well as Andrea Pirlo stating: “I am extremely lucky I met Antonio Conte, I had so many coaches to compare him too, and he is the one who surprised me the most. I was expecting a good coach, but not that good.“. Strong relationships are key for every football club and is especially needed in Chelsea’s dressing room after losing Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard who were key senior figures, along with John Terry, to motivate and inspire the team; a friendly and engaging manager would be very appreciated by these players. He revived struggling teams at Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena, but his work at Juventus stands out the most.
Aside from a personal perspective, what could make Conte a suitable manager to take over Chelsea and be successful in a tough league is his tactical knowledge and winning mentality, which alone has had critical comparisons to Jose Mourinho. He has demonstrated his tactical versatility and meticulousness as a coach, adopting several different formations in an attempt to find the most suitable system to suit his players’ skills. The formations he adopted included the 4-2-4, the 4-1-4-1, and the 4-3-3, the latter being used by Jose Mourinho in his first ever season at Chelsea which was arguably their best ever season. His favoured formation ended up being a 3-5-2, however, a formation like that is nearly impossible to succeed in the Premier League, with Louis Van Gaal unsuccessfully attempting it several times in 2014/15. Conte will most likely use a deep 4-3-3 where at Juventus he used to allow Andrea Pirlo to function creatively as a deep-lying playmaker while the more dynamic Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio either supported him defensively or offensively by making attacking runs into the area. This was a fantastic system that was integral to the league domination of Juventus in the 2014/15 season.
In terms of transfers, Juventus has made some great signings with world class midfielders Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba both brought to the Italian club under Conte. He is known for making some great bargains, noticeably; Andrea Pirlo (free), Paul Pogba (free), Carlos Tevez (£6.75m), Arturo Vidal (£9.4m) and Stephan Lichtsteiner (£7.5m) who were all fantastic first team players. During his three seasons at Juve, Conte never spent over £15m on a player.
Conte isn’t known for many weaknesses, but one that is relatively small but shouldn’t be ignored is he failed to make an impact in the Champions League with Juventus, although only having two attempts. In his first season in the competition, he topped his group stage with 3 wins and 3 draws, beating the competition holders, and possible future employers, Chelsea 3-0. Juventus drew Celtic in the first knockout rounds winning 5-0 on aggregate where they then met the eventual winners Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals; losing 2-0 on both legs. Of course, he drew arguably the hardest team in the competition and one of the best managers Jupp Heyncke, but he knew he had to improve for next seasons’ Champions League.
The next season Juventus drew Real Madrid, Galatasaray and Copenhagen in the group stage where they finished a disappointing third place exiting the competition and joining the Europa League. Conte took them to the semi-finals before losing to runners-up Benfica. The quality Conte had at his disposal should’ve finished second due to the strength of Real Madrid but weakness of Copenhagen and Galatasaray, especially that the following season that saw the employment of other Chelsea candidate Massimo Allegri who took Juventus to the finals (in his first season) where they lost to Barcelona, knocking out Real Madrid on the way. However Conte’s Juventus squad that saw a disappointing Champions League campaign was an unfortunate balance of experience and inexperience that would be avoided with Chelsea should he get the job and will hopefully do better in the world’s best club competition.
Overall, it’s very likely Conte has got what it takes to revive Chelsea and hit the ground running with world class players, strong finances and top quality staff, as well as his tactical prowess and managerial ability. It’s possible his great experience and high reputation could put him in front of candidates Diego Simeone and Massimo Allegri. He should be a strong contender for the job but Chelsea, of course, needs to evaluate the other options as the three favourites for the job are all fantastic managers who would do a great job at Stamford Bridge
// Liam, @Azpily