Chelsea’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford on Monday night; has seen the club hit a 23-year low in the Premier League under Antonio Conte. According to Opta, the Blues have lost consecutive Premier League games by a margin of 3+ goals for the first time since October 1995 (1-4 vs Manutd and 0-3 vs Blackburn). Things are falling apart easily for Chelsea and Conte and, it will only do both parties good if they separate.
Ahead of the season, it was wildly reported that the former Juventus manager wasn’t happy with the squad, with his squad light on numbers. And Conte was obviously not pleased with his team’s transfer dealings.
“For sure it will be the most difficult season of my career as a coach,” Conte said in August last year. “Why? There are many reasons and I haven’t a lot of time to explain a lot of this reasons. But I am sure about this. In this moment we have a small squad. Everyone can see the situation. It’s not because the coach shouts ‘I want this’ or ‘I want this’. We hope to improve it because it’s very clear.”
Fast forward six months from then, and it’s very obvious the Italian can’t manage appropriately the thin squad he was left with, given the plethora of competitions to play.
While it would be harsh to axe the manager – having won the club the league in his first season, and putting into consideration the minimal fund that was released to him for squad improvement, the 48-year-old has often let himself and his team down – with some wrong decisions on and off the field.
His decision to keep starting Tiemoue Bakayoko, even when it’s obvious the former Monaco man needs some time off the starting eleven, baffled pundits and fans alike. Chelsea flourished and went on to win the league last season – after a tactical switch to a 3-4-3 formation. And many would have expected Conte to keep to this winning formula.
The 3-5-1-1 he has adopted this season hasn’t worked out. The 3-4-3 or 3-4-2-1 would have been better, considering the players around him. Nothing bad in tweaking sometimes to counter the opponent tactically, but, when it doesn’t work, you play to your team’s strength. And it’s obvious, 3-4-2-1 would have been more suitable for the likes of Hazard playing as one of the two inside forwards; floating in the pockets outside their own holding players but inside the full-back. The system was so devastating last season it brought 13 wins in a row, and got the Belgian 16 league goals. Fabregas now struggling in this new system, excelled last season in the 3-4-2-1 system.
Off the pitch, it has been speculated that Conte isn’t in good terms with club owner Roman Abramovich( with the Italian seemingly unhappy his influence over transfers and the amount of money invested in new players compared to their rivals), that members of the squad have grown tired of Conte’s ‘bad mood’ at the training ground. And it now seem even José Mourinho’s mind game is getting into the former Italy boss’ head.
Antonio Conte was quoted in August last year; before the start of the season saying, “In Italy the people know that I have not great patience.” And if that statement is anything to go by, then, the manager might have ran out of patience with the board and with the team.
And Conte even told the Chelsea board after the defeat by Watford on Monday night to: sack him if they want. It’s obvious the Lecce born football manager has lost the motivation to turn the corner for the club. And it could be dangerous for Chelsea to keep that sort of person at the helm of affairs on the pitch; at the club.
Conte would definitely walk into another big job from here, if he chose to leave now or get axed by the club. So, it is only safer for both parties to part ways, and prevent further damage on their respective contours, ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Barcelona.
Carlo Ancelotti also won Chelsea the league in his first season, but things turned soar in his second season and he was fired after finishing second on the log. But, fierce competition for Champions League spots this season, means Chelsea might not finish between second and fourth – if they continue in this poor form with Antonio Conte. So if the board must act, they should act now – and get rid of the Italian who is clearly fed up with happenings at the club. As a separation between Conte and the club now, will come as a win-win situation for both parties.