Adversity – a word every Chelsea fan is so familiar with to the extent that it doesn’t surprise us anymore. From the failure assessment of Claudio Ranieri, the infamous player power struggles of Phil Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas to the Jose Mourinho season, Chelsea are famed for being a club that play carefree on the light ropes between adversity and triumph.
Now another adversity stares us at us in the face like a charmed lover. Conte’s bridges at Chelsea are falling down! The Italian’s honeymoon period gained for winning the title last season had elapsed at the club, and now he’s games away from leaving the club in a gloomy manner. Inconsistency in performances and results have seen the team looked mediocre – very average and a shadow of itself as highlighted by a dispiriting, meek and submissive display against Manchester City last weekend.
Now, there’s a feeling of the end of a love affair between Conte and the club. With little hopes of winning silverware and qualifying for next season’s Champions league, how can Conte arrest our slide and give us the fans something to cheer about?
Here are three ways to arrest our slide:
TIME TO CHANGE TACTICAL SYSTEM:
One defining moment of our title-winning season was Conte’s tactical masterstroke of switching to a 3-4-3 formation. The league was stunned and we raced to win the title before anyone could figure out how we played. But traces of predictability in our game were brought to fore late last season especially by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Most teams worked out a blueprint to counter our tactical plan. First, Conte introduced the 3-5-2 formation, but it’s limitation in denying us creativity made it impossible to be relied on. This might just be the time to revert back to 4-3-3. A four-man back line protected by a three-man midfield and driven by attacking triumvirate. This might ease up on the players and solve our tactical predictability. In the words of 1978 World Cup-winning coach Cesar Menotti:
“A manager is the chief of a command troop. He must prepare the soldiers, and use them accordingly. If the manager knows that a soldier is good with the pistol, but then puts that soldier in the kitchen and sends the cook to the battlefront, then he’s a moron. The first rule of a manager is to find footballers who represent his ideas. The players are then the ones that defend those.”
Finding a system that suits the strengths of the players is as important as picking the right players to execute his ideas. It’s obvious the 3-4-3/3-5-2 formations are making the team quite predictable and Conte must figure this out.
TIME TO BE CHANGE STYLE AND PATTERN OF PLAY:
There’s certainly no defined way of playing football. The pragmatics believe winning is the only thing that matters, while the artistes believe the fans have the right to beautiful and entertaining football. But one thing that shouldn’t be envisaged is the idea of playing negative football , ultra-defensive, anti-football style and pattern of play. No doubt, every manager wants to win and the assessment of the job of their jobs is solely done to results. But playing in the right way with a balance of artistic and pragmatic styles would be the ideal fit. Atletio Madrid Coach shared his thoughts on this:
“Football is a game of errors,” he once declared. “The fewer mistakes you make, the closer you are to a victory. It’s a lie that he who attacks the most is closer to winning. It’s he who makes the fewest mistakes. And for that we work on what we feel are the opposition weak points.”
The opposition weak points could mean working out a pattern to repel the opposition from attacking as well as also building a strong defensive line that could also deal with torrents of attacking moves by the opposition. Chelsea have failed in both boxes this season. Conte needs to go back to the basics of attacking and defensive plays and fit them into a system that can work for the team. The fans have the right to be victoriously entertained in both ways.
TIME TO FIGHT:
“This season will be very difficult if we don’t understand quickly the right way that we have to go.
“Last season we showed great hunger, great will to do something of importance. If we think that only because our name is Chelsea and the opponent has fear (of) the name Chelsea, I think this is not the right way.
“We must find the hunger that we showed in all last season and in this season sometimes. We have to try to find the strength to understand and to use this loss in the right way.”
Those were the words of Conte after Chelsea 3-0 defeat to Roma in this season’s Champions League group stage in Rome. All the talk of showing fighting spirit that exudes the resilience, hunger and passion to win has seen Chelsea fans being played to the gallery and left living in fool’s paradise. Damning defeats against beatable mid table teams and an underwhelming start to 2018 has been the tale of Conte’s second season at the club. The Italian is famed for his fiery, battle-ready desire and passion for success and he definitely needs to instill those qualities in the players. More so, a clear the air talk among the playing and coaching staff might just do the trick. Just as Roberto Di Matteo did to lead Chelsea to the miraculous in 2012, Conte needs to do same to save Chelsea’s season from plunging into oblivion.
Let’s hope for the best. Cheers!