Stamford Bridge: The Home of the Champions; as several banners in and outside the stadium read. You can’t blame the Chelsea supporters for their exuberant celebration of their second league title in three years. Much to Chelsea’s credit are the sweeping changes made by influential Italian manager, Antonio Conte. His bold decision to adopt his familiar 3-4-3 formation is clearly a product of his managerial savvy. More so, the powerful execution of his ideas by the team is also a product of synergy. Conte and Chelsea are indeed Siamese twins that look inseparable even by the best surgeon in the world. But the big question is: what next after the title win? That’s a huge question for Chelsea and Conte.
Let’s view two perspectives:
CHELSEA’S FIRING LINES:
For Chelsea, will the club be willing to back the manager after failing to back two of their previous title-winning managers after a title win? Neither Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti were backed the following summer after securing the title previous season. This proved a disaster in the club’s ambition of surpassing their feats of the precious season.
More so, the instability issue at the club during the Roman Abramovich era has become many managers nightmare. Despite Jose Mourinho’s feat of winning three league titles, yet they were not enough to save his job when the chips were down. Roberto Di Matteo’s harsher sack after winning the much-obsessed Champions League trophy after a poor run of form was heartbreaking. Then, Carlo Ancelotti’s double win of league and cup triumph were overshadowed by poor results the following season as all he achieved counted for little or nothing. It’s a stark reality but the truth is Chelsea Russian owner lives in the present and not in the past. More so, he shows no sentiment especially when things don’t go as planned. He’s a success addict and expects his managers to always deliver, which is something Conte must take note of. Whichever way his new love affair with Conte goes, it is imperative for him to choose whether to sack his manager or back him. Over to you, Chelsea and Abramovich.
CONTE’S FIRING LINES:
The English dictionary has seen the entry of a new word: ‘Conte’ which means: ‘to win beyond expectations’. Clearly the unheralded coming of the fiery Italian was eclipsed by the much-heralded appointments of Jose Mourinho by Manchester United and Pep Guardiola by Manchester City in the summer. Both Manchester clubs showed lofty ambitions by appointing the best of the best in the managerial hall of fame, but both have flattered to deceive this season by all standards. Meanwhile, Conte magic wand has transformed Chelsea from mediocrity to greatness. Like their manager’s prophecy ‘from a burning fire into a blazing inferno’. Good work Conte!
There are three sides of a coin – the back, front and edge. Conte’s title success had an edge to it with the club’s absence from European football, less injury worries and the excellence of a new and functional system that surprised many. Interestingly, next season will pose a whole different challenge for Conte and Chelsea.
Can Chelsea’s fringe players keep the team going when injuries and suspensions strike or when the games start coming heated and quick? Judging from the overall input of the fringe players all season, the answer is a resounding NO. Then comes the need to improve the quality of the team in the summer transfer window.
Buying the right players will be crucial to Conte’s long-term stay at Chelsea as well his preferred system for next season’s title defence and quest for Champions League glory.
For now Conte has the world at his feet at Chelsea, as he enjoys the honeymoon period owing to his title win, but he must be ready for the challenges that will spring up next season.