Conte-nental Love?

Conte-nental Love?
Apr 4, 2016

Champions League Chelsea Europa League

Antonio Conte’s appointment as Chelsea boss should be EXPLOSIVE. So will it all be fireworks?

Come the end of the UEFA European Championships in France, the Italian will change tact as he returns to club management. The announcement of Conte’s appointment came nothing of a major surprise; Conte had been linked with the Blues for several months and now Abramovich has his man in the Stamford Bridge hotseat- it seems like a convienient and appropriate time to discuss what needs to change to pull a fervently desperate Chelsea from its knees and back to its usual headstrong position both in England and Europe.

The Familiar Backdrop

Once again, Chelsea fans will be welcoming yet another manager in the summer in order to establish a successful ‘era’ ahead. 

After the most disastrous title defence in post war history (only Manchester City in the 30s, whom were relegated the season after top flight coronation being worse overall) combined with erratically spiralling out of all competitions- most notably the UEFA Champions League, which the Blues won’t contest in next season, the squad from top to bottom is in disarray. Bordering on palpable discord. 

While interim manager Guus Hiddink- who has enjoyed a 15 game unbeaten streak in the Premier League- has ‘steadied’ the ship for Chelsea, he will not be overseeing the squad come next season. In a familiar backdrop of managerial discontinuity and disarray, walk in: Antonio Conte.

Conte’s Endless Summer…

As Antonio Conte walks into Stamford Bridge in the summer, after leading Italy in their European Championships campaign, there’s a plethora of problems, loose ends to tie up and issues to sort out in order to make sure Chelsea are ready to put in a more hungry fight come next season. What he faces makes it all for an endless summer.

Bonfire of the Sanities

 
One of the more intriguing issues Conte faces has to be the player’s mentality and demeanour. This same squad Conte inherits is the same the squad that boasts contradictions all over the place; on one hand, they marched to the Premier League title in 14/15 almost without any sort of threat of being displaced but in the other hand, as forementioned, they are the worst defending champions in a very long time with the beyond dismal defence seeing Jose Mourinho overthrown come Christmas. 

Conte, famed for his old-school disciplinarism, seems to be the man who can turn these mere mice back into men; with players (whom had played under Antonio’s premiership) such as Andrea Pirlo warning Chelsea’s stellar players they’re in for a shock. Known for venomous, expletive fuelled half time/full time rants coupled with the abuse of marker pens and water bottles too- Conte’s demonic presence can surely go toe-to-toe with the petulant primadonnas…and there will only be one winner.

In a battle at the Bridge between brawny genius and boasting primadonnas- it truly will be a bonfire of the sanities. 

  Players that have disappointed such as Eden Hazard are set for a collision course with Conte. 
The Youth Equation

One of the biggest critiques the Abramovich era (in its 13 year era of trophy laden success) has been the inability, under its several managers, to develop youth into the first team. 

The incumbent interim Hiddink has begun to give the ‘youth’ a chance in the Premier League- albeit by the virtue of languishing in 10th with any sort of European football qualification remotely distant- with players such as Ruben Loftus Cheek, Bertrand Traore and Matt Miazga being gifted opportunities to impress. And impressed, they have.

What makes one’s eyebrow raise (as well as Roman Abramovich’s) has to be the sheer domination that Chelsea’s youth sides have enjoyed in recent years; boasting consecutive domestic cups and even conquering the UEFA Youth League (the youth equivalent to the Champions League- in which Chelsea haven’t set the world alight for quite some time now). It is worth noting that Abramovich’s vast expenditure in the youth system over the years isn’t for littering the trophy cabinets- it’s for the sole intention of assuring Chelsea’s bled in youth are the team of and for the future.

So Conte has the pen, pencil, ruler, highlighter and calculator in order to attempt to solve a 13 year conundrum that’s befuddled all before him: the youth equation.

  
Will Conte gift young players such as Loftus Cheek a chance?

A Continuous Chelsea?

The third major issue relates to the first mentioned: players. Let’s face it, Chelsea are a very rich club. Abramovich has several millions in reserve for transfers and with the TV deal (which the Premier League will see £5.1 BILLION pumped in) coming into effect, Chelsea have more than room for manoeuvre.

What does this mean? Well it’s quite obvious yet a difficult thing to gather: the transfers. Chelsea face a season out of Europe with a squad that, on the pitch, looks nowhere bear strong as its direct competitors in Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool (etc.). Therefore, spending is necessary. What makes it difficult is this balancing act Conte must play; he and Chelsea’s board have already seen Manchester United’s mass spending (when out of Europe) flop quite badly so this hypothesis of ‘buying a new squad’ cannot work. 

An area that’s come under intense scrutiny all season has been the Blues’ defence. A mirror and shadow of what they were in the title winning season, it’s clear that change is needed and necessary. But, and I say but very boldly, the John Terry scenario will be intriguing to see unfold. The legend that’s graced Chelsea for season upon season faces a shock exile from Chelsea, with the board’s refusal to give him a contract extension- despite giving Branislav Ivanovic (whom has been subject to be most criticism in the crisis season)  an extension. Conte, however, is known for ruthless disregard of sentiment and voiceferous loyalty; he had given Juventus legends (whom were loved) the unforgiving axe.

What can be assured in the summer will be Conte’s uncompromising ruthless peak; with the deadwood and the passionless players- contributing only problems to this miserable season- will incur the wrath of Conte and probably find theirselves with their backsides rightly out of Chelsea’s front door. Question is: will it be a new Chelsea or a continuous one?

 

John Terry’s future at Chelsea still remains in doubt.

Conte-nental Love?

What can be concluded from this is that this summer will be the most crucial summer Chelsea Football Club will face; at their lowest ebb in Abramovich’s glory years, out of Europe and in an increasingly competitive Premier League- Antonio Conte must navigate a way through the summer in order to pave way for a hopefully successful, ‘normal’ season. The harrowing thing from all of this, however, is that Chelsea are once again soul searching- an oh so familiar position they’ve been in since Abramovich’s takeover 13 years ago.

Uncomprising, calculating and controverisal, Conte’s arrival from the continent will be met with excitement and anticipation. With contracts yet to be signed and footballs yet to be kicked, will the fifth Italian manager Chelsea have had enjoy love and in particular, a ‘Conte-nental’ love?

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