Football sp18-antonio-conte

Published on May 18th, 2018 | by Vieri Capretta

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From champions to burnt-out: Conte’s last stand with Chelsea

🕓 Reading time: 2 minutes

Saturday’s FA Cup final is expected to be the last match in charge for Antonio Conte with the Italian having turned a team of champions into also-rans 

Everyone knew that doing better than last season would have been very tough for Antonio Conte on the Chelsea bench. Simply because, obviously, he had won the Premier League. So domestically, it was impossible to do better, unless perhaps a league and cup double was produced.

In Europe everyone knew it would have been difficult to compete for the Champions League, no-one expected Conte to do this badly at home. The FA Cup final against Manchester United could be the Italian’s last game in charge, and despite this season, he has definitely done well with the Blues.

Hands up who thought he would have won the title with last season’s team? Sure, he inherited Jose Mourinho’s 2015 champions, and revamped their strengths, adding his work ethic, winning mentality and tactical genius. But it remains pretty incredible: he won ahead of Mourinho’s United, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. They failed to deliver, Conte stunned them and there you go: Chelsea won the Premier League.

What happened this year? Well, Conte drains players. He did so at Juventus, and the same seems to have happened at Chelsea. You either follow him to your death, or end it earlier. Diego Costa is a prime example. Conte is one who guides players to victories, but expects them to give their everything. And it is not always what players want to do. Especially if results don’t come. And the start of the 2017/18 season was an example of what followed. Chelsea struggled to confirm their status as champions, and then lacked the motivation to keep up with Conte’s rhythm.

The example is their two-legged defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League. They were motivated then, clearly. Chelsea lost in terms of the result, but not in terms of how they played. They faced Barcelona toe-to-toe, and only an enlightened Lionel Messi made the difference at the Nou Camp. It showed the Blues are still a solid team, when they do want to follow their manager.

If not, they struggle, a lot. And we saw that in their defeat to Newcastle that gave Liverpool the last Champions League spot. A week earlier the Blues had deservedly beaten Klopp’s Champions League finalists. Showing their worth yet again. But then they collapsed mentally. Now there’s a trophy to win, an FA Cup to lift. The best way for Conte to say goodbye to Chelsea and London, is to demonstrate that he is always a winner.

The former Juventus coach guided the Bianconeri to three consecutive titles, after two seventh spots in a row, rebuilding the team and taking a group of players to new levels. He did a similar job with the Italian national team, impressing with the Azzurri at Euro 2016. Then Chelsea – champions at the first attempt.

If the players follow Conte, success is almost guaranteed. But it’s not always easy to have the strength to follow him. If Chelsea do it for one last game, Conte could leave the club having won the FA Cup – a double of kinds achieved over two years.

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About the Author

mm

A freelance journalist and broadcaster focusing on European soccer and currently featuring on Uefa.com, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Marca in English and more.



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