Manchester City and Manchester United had all the headlines before the start of the season after Manchester City got Pep Guardiola and Manchester United got Jose Mourinho. Most football lovers predicted the title would be going to the city of Manchester, none gave Chelsea boss Antonio Conte a chance including Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher.
Carragher admitted everyone was obsessed with the arrival of Guardiola, the return of Mourinho and the charismatic Jurgen Klopp and Conte was allowed to slip under the radar.
“We were obsessed last summer. Before the season began we couldn’t stop talking about Pep Guardiola’s arrival, the return of Jose Mourinho and the charismatic Jurgen Klopp,” Carragher wrote in Daily Mail.
“The Premier League had become the centre of the world in terms of football managers and those three figures dominated nearly every conversation, even though another new face was joining the argument.
“We allowed Antonio Conte to slip under the radar.
“Conte had an outstanding record in Italy with Juventus, taking them from seventh place in the table to winning Serie A three years in row.
“He went on to lead Italy at Euro 2016, where his standout results came against Belgium and Spain as they reached the quarter-finals.
“But he had no special pedigree in the Champions League, the competition we fixate on in England. So without that on his c.v. we allowed him to come into our game unheralded. It was our mistake.
“Back in August, in just my third column of the season, I argued that it would be foolish to write off Chelsea completely, despite their dreadful defence of the title in 2015-16.
“But did I expect them to be running away with the title in mid-March? No.
“This was supposed to be a shootout between Guardiola and Mourinho. Both men had more time to prepare their teams and both spent more than £100million to try to keep their rivals in the shadows.
“Chelsea shelled out money, too, on N’Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso, David Luiz and Michy Batshuayi, but I don’t think Conte secured all the players he wanted.
“Luiz was the prime example, given Chelsea failed with bids for Leonardo Bonucci and Kalidou Koulibaly, two defenders Conte knew well from Serie A.
“If I was a Chelsea supporter, I’d have been worried in the opening weeks of his reign, particularly after those back-to-back defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal in September. The team were not functioning, Conte was dour in interviews and he looked permanently downcast.”