Antonio Conman Out
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Having given Antonio Conman the benefit of the doubt following our successful 16/17 season my long-standing concerns regarding the Italian have returned to fruition in spectacular fashion having overseen a lifeless defence to our premier league crown reminiscent of 15/16 with Chelsea currently 19 points behind league leaders Manchester City and the distinct possibility of failing to make the top 4.
Despite our title-winning campaign last season it was glaringly obvious to the naked eye that there were clear areas of weakness which needed to be addressed most notably the wing back positions occupied by Moses & Alonso which were key ingredients of the 3-4-3 system deployed throughout the vast majority of last season hence sufficient upgrades in those positions likely to have a colossal impact on our team. however despite the inital availability of Danilo, he notably rejected Conte despite the likelihood of more playing time in preference of playing under Pep Guardiola. Serge Aurier then emerged as a realistic attainable alternative to Danilo who'd likewise be a significant upgrade on Moses yet after failing to register any interest for no apparent reason he ended up signing with Spurs for £23m resulting in the eventual underwhelming signing of Torino full-back Davide Zappacosta for £25m on top of failing to upgrade on the hopeless Marcos Alonso despite negotiating for Alex Sandro throughout the summer.
The most damning indictment on Conte's incompetence in the transfer market occurred on deadline day where he failed in his attempt to acquire both Llorente and Oxlade Chamberlain who snubbed him for Spurs/Liverpool respectively. The result of our summer business despite continual mishaps by Conte were the additions of Caballero/Rudiger/Bakayoko/Drinkwater/Morata and the departures of Begovic/Ake/Matic/Costa. The overwhelming consensus drawn from our summer activity was an emphasis on a clear lack of pulling power on Conte's behalf in contrast to his counterparts Mourinho/Guardiola etc as well as a clear failure to address crucial areas of the squad leaving us criminally unprepared for the defence of our title.
Following our underwhelming summer of transfer activity, it was blatantly obvious to many Chelsea fans that the possibility of retaining our title was near enough impossible due to the incompetencies of Conte in the transfer market on top of the fact Hazard would be missing the first 6 weeks of the season via an injury he suffered in the summer thus entering the season extremely pessimistic however the nature of our title defence has been nothing short of embarrassing having overseen Crystal Palace's first goals and win of the season as well as further unacceptable performances & results against West Ham/Everton followed by back to back 3 goal defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford leaving us 19 points adrift of Man CIty and the likelihood of finishing outside the top 4 looking like a distinct possibility rather than the formality it should have been which is one of many reasons I believe urgent action is requred to ressurect any lingering hopes of overseeing champions league football as a Chelsea fan next season.
In spite of our title win last season I was very aware of the fact that our non-participation in the champions league played a major part in our domestic success, therefore, I was very intrigued to see how Conte would handle the return of Champions League football at the club considering the effect it'd have on our league exploits, Furthermore his previous ventures in the competition as Juventus manager left a lot to be desired having overseen a group stage exit in 2013/14 despite being in a group consisting of Galatasaray and Copenhagen. Subsequent to the champions league draw in which we were allocated to a group consisting of Atletico Madrid, Roma, and Qarabag it was widely touted as one of the most difficult groups with many viewing Atletico as strong favorites to top the group due to previous success in the competition.
However, our European campaign began with the formality of beating minnows Qarabag followed by a fantastic victory against Atletico Madrid which left us in a commanding position following matchday 2 leading on to pivotal back to back fixtures against Roma which would prove to be decisive. Upon the arrival of the Roma game, the importance of winning was unmeasurable as it would leave a huge indication on whether we'd qualify or not with Atletico facing whipping boys Qarabag back to back where they were expected to amass all 6 points. Having been in a commanding 2-0 position against Roma and cruising we inexplicably allowed Roma to not only come back but take the lead before Hazard levelling affairs to make it 3-3 before Conte irresponsibly and unforgivably substituted him to the disbelief of all Chelsea fans despite having a brace and being the best player on the pitch.
Conte's huge blunder in the reverse fixture could have been resolved by achieving a positive result in Rome however we were comprehensively beaten 3-0 which meant his actions in the reserve fixture would turn out to be extremely costly. In spite of Contes fatal errors against Roma we were provided with a huge lifeline in regards to our qualification to the RO16 as Qarabag held Atletico to draws in both meetings meaning we required just a win against Qarabag to advance to the next stage which we routinely achieved with a 4-0 win but finishing top of the group was in the hands of Roma. subsequently, Roma dealt with the formality of beating Qarabag to top the group leaving us as runners-up and facing the likelihood of drawing one of Barcelona or PSG, As forecasted prior to the upcoming round of 16 draw the prospect of facing Barcelona or PSG became a reality as we were drawn to play Barcelona leaving us with the daunting task of not only containing a team firing on all cyclinders but a team spearheaded by the greatest footballer of all time Lionel Messi who has surprisingly yet to score against Chelsea providing him with an added incentive to eliminate us. The result of the draw reaffirmed my doubts regarding Conte prior to our European campaign as minor details make a huge difference in this competition and his decision to substitute Hazard against Roma turned out to be the difference between facing Barcelona rather than Shakhtar Donetsk
Irrespective of our results, one of my main grievances towards Conte is his clear lack of a footballing philosophy and his satisfaction towards his insipid,monotonous and bland brand of football fitting of a Sam Allardyce side with no clear focus on any phases of our play, instead electing to deploy a style of play where the automatisms and lack of varation in our attacking sequences made us a very predictable team to figure out and invariably the majoriry of our attacks more often than not culminating in either wing back delivering aimless inaccurate crosses into the box whether it be Morata as the focal point or in some instances Hazard when he operates as a false 9. This preferred style of play adopted by Conte is clearly detrimental to the attacking personnel at his disposal most notably Hazard who has a burden greater than any other top level attacking player in Europe yet still receives criticism in regards to his productivity despite having a very modest 12 goals and 9 assists in 26 starts including 10 motm awards in all comps.
An indication of a clear disgruntlement with the playing style was initially made aware when Cesc Fabregas directly quoted in his post-match press conference following a victory over Man Utd: "This is a team full of fantastic players and we need to take advantage of that and I think we struggled lately a little bit to defend a little bit too much and not have the ball enough," he told Sky Sports. "Today we had a lot of the ball, we created chances, we played like a big team, we defended like a big team and we have to be proud today". In addition, Hazard also made his feelings known regarding our attacking approach in big games by stating the need to deploy an attacking approach against Arsenal with the intention to create chances and score in order to advance to the final which was in direct response to a press conference held by Conte before our carabao cup semi-final against Arsenal where he stated that we should be prepared to 'suffer without the ball' consequently resulting in a 2-1 loss against a very ordinary Arsenal side in a quite frankly dismal display.
Prior to the arrival of the January transfer window, Conte clearly made it known that the emphasis of his transfer activity was the sole focus of adding a numeral value to his squad rather than additions resulting in the replacement of first XI players thus culminating in the acquisitions of Emerson Palmieri, Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud which was perceived as solid if not spectacular transfer business. However, following recent results, Conte has started to backtrack and contradict his pre transfer window comments by complaining about the quality of his January recruits most notably Barkley when he was very aware of the fact he had just returned from a long-term injury, therefore, requiring time to increase match fitness/sharpness yet still allowed Musonda to join Celtic on loan with this in mind.
In his most recent comments regarding the club Conte revealed to the daily mail that himself and the club are working towards developing and integrating more young players to the first team squad rather than spending money on new signings which I personally found extremely audacious having overseen the sale of Nathan Ake who was more than good enough to be a squad player at the club considering Gary Cahill was a regular starter. Conte also allowed Ruben Loftus-Cheek to go out on loan after opting to sign Danny Drinkwater for £30m which further highlighted his lack of trust in his young players. additionally, the motives behind his integration of Andreas Christensen to the starting XI can also be questioned as it was clearly unplanned and was a reaction to the dispute between himself and David Luiz following their altercation after the Roma defeat. More recently the hype surrounding the hottest prospect in the academy Callum Hudson Odoi resulted in him being introduced to the first team squad however despite Pedros disgraceful form Hudson-Odoi has been reduced to short cameos that haven't enabled him to showcase his entire skillset due to the limited minutes he's been provided.
Subsequently, Conte, regardless of his complaints about the board is solely responsible for how the team is set up and performs on matchdays therefore he only has himself to blame in regards to our current domestic demise with just 2 wins in our last 11 games which is down to his unjustified persistence with out of form players such as Cahill who is hands down the worst starting centre half of all top 6 clubs, Bakayoko who is a contender for one of the worst signings in Chelsea history and Pedro who on current form struggles to resemble a professional footballer. Conte is also responsible for continuously selecting extremely defensive lineups against vastly inferior opposition such as Bournemouth, West Ham, and Watford when it is abundantly clear a more offensive approach would have provided more dividends in terms of results. Furthermore, his undermining comments regarding the expectations of the fans by making claims that we shouldn't expect to win silverware and top 4 would represent a successful season when in reality attaining champions league football should be regarded as the bare minimum entering the season for a club of Chelsea's stature.Moreover not only does he avoid accountability for any of his mishaps he has the arrogance to claim he's somehow doing a fantastic job which is beyond delusional.
Conte's new formed arrogance has also led him to demand assurances about his job after continually firing shots at the hierarchy of the club as well as providing no source of optimism in regards to the teams' recent performances. subsequently, due to the nature of our managerial policy and the success it has been accompanied with despite the lack of stability there is no reason why Antonio Conte should be seen as an exception to the theme especially when the most successful manager in our history Jose Mourinho who has been sacked not once but twice despite declaring his willingness to commit long-term, therefore, my overwhelming consensus which is shared by multiple disgruntled Chelsea fans is that Antonio Conte's position has become untenable hence why he should be relieved of his duties with immediate effect in order to salvage any hopes of cementing a top 4 finish at the very least.
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