Should Antonio Conte Step Down At Chelsea?

I wrestled with whether or not I wanted to go down the Antonio Conte rumor-hole for weeks. As a blues fan, it’s always difficult when one of your own becomes the spotlight problem-child in a league so riddled with manager turnovers.

But Conte deserves my two-cents. With his second season almost behind him, I wanted to take a look at Chelsea’s recent run of form, coupled with Conte’s perceived failure/success, and the atmosphere that which Stamford Bridge, and the entire Premier League, currently has.

Chelsea’s Champions League Performance

They bowed out of the Champions League with a 4-1 aggregate loss to Barcelona. I’m not mad about that, honestly. To be fair, in that first match they looked pretty good. They dominated possession for portions of that game, took a number of chances and snagged a goal against, at that time, one of the hottest teams in the world.

We made it out of a tough group, with Atletico Madrid and Roma (and poor Qarabag). Conte had done a good job in utilizing younger talent within these games, namely in the form of Andreas Christensen. He really had a coming-out party (not that kind) this season, with good performances early and proving himself worthy of a starting position alongside/slightly in front of Cahill.

And while I think Chelsea could easily become a final-four/Championship team again, I am by no means disappointed with its performance in that competition.

Blues in the Prem

For reference, Chelsea is currently sitting in 5th place, 6 points ahead of Arsenal, and 5 points behind Spurs. We’re nestled in that tough position of Euro League definite and Champions League hopeful. Not that great of a place to be.

This is an opinion piece, obviously, but here’s what I think. Chelsea, since winning the title last season, has become complacent in victory. That applies to Conte, the administration, as well as the players. I see no heart when I watch Chelsea play, except for moments. Willian continues to be the hardest working Blue, despite a lack of statistics and numbers on the board.

We’ve seen Chelsea struggle to put balls in the back of the net, with the lowest Goals For (59) tally out of the top-6. Christ, Burnley’s allowed less goals than the Blues this season. I had thought Morata would have banged in 15/20 this season in the league, and though he’s gotten 11, doesn’t come off as an electric scorer.

That’s not to say he won’t get there. Just an observation looking at a team who considers itself one of the best in the world but can’t break the top-4 in the domestic league, barely beat Southampton to make the FA Cup final, and can’t even make the Quarter-finals in the Champions League.

From a performance standpoint. I see a Chelsea team who, thus far, has seemed content with staying out of title races with the talent they’ve got. Which is very frustrating as a fan who looks at Chelsea, the talent they’ve got, and not see them produce.

We Should Look at the Manager, Too

Antonio Conte won the league for us last season. It was a great year to be a blue. But with Pep and Jurgen finally getting a couple seasons under their belt, giving their players the time to mature and grow into themselves, we’ve fallen behind. They were quiet for a while, and now Liverpool sit in the semis in the Champions League, and Man City is one of the most electric teams I’ve ever seen.

That’s not to mention the way Mourinho has created his side. Man U, with a game on Liverpool, sit 3 points ahead and in 2nd. Very sneakily so, I would say. Lukaku has produced, and their team’s defense has been incredible to be honest.

Pochettino and his side have been strong too. Last season we saw their defensive prowess at work, week in, week out. They can stick it to any team in the world, prevalent in that 3-1 beating of Real Madrid in the Champions League earlier. They’re that team that, 5 years ago, people said “oh they’ll be good in a few years.” That time, folks, is now.

What has Chelsea done since last season, to improve? We bought Morata, a shakily promising forward who was on loan at Juve for over a season, and came back to be the understudy to Ronaldo and Benzema. Good training, but his numbers hadn’t spoken yet. We panic-purchased two Central Midfielders once we lost Matic, in Ross Barkley (where has he been?) and Danny Drinkwater. Neither of these signings have made an impact, except maybe a goal or two.

Then we got Emerson Palmieri. Good signing, in my opinion. However, he’s not a world class outside back. I think in a couple years, we’ll see him really make an impact. But for now, he’s an off-the-bench outside player, or maybe that FA Cup player.

Other than that, Conte has allowed those transfer rumors of Courtouis and Hazard to Real Madrid continue, without so much as a word to dismiss them.

Cahill is getting old, David Luiz has been in and out of injury. Pedro has been low-key this season, as has Fabregas.

This, to me, doesn’t look like a team that could win the ‘ship, either domestic or abroad.

And I know I’m being garrulous at this point, but I haven’t posted in a while and needed these thoughts to live somewhere other than in my head.

I’ve heard that Conte hasn’t been sacked, but might be leaving, for a few reasons.

  1. If he were to leave at the end of this season, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich would owe the man £10million in compensation
  2. There are claims that Chelsea would avoid paying him any money should he walk into another club within six months of leaving.
  3. Every single interview with him, he bemoans the Chelsea transfer policy. He’s said they never listen to him, and are too conservative
  4. Conte loves to complain about how the world seems to be against him every time he makes a suggestion or change, and never celebrates the good he’s brought

First of all, no shit, to that last point. People always want more out of top-tier coaches no matter what.

But, whether any of this is true or not i’m not sure. But we’re going to find out.

In summation, my assessment is this: Yes. I think he should step down. He’s not a long term fix in my opinion, and if he stays for another year, we’re only going to see more of the same if he’s dealing with the same problems from the administration and players. He just doesn’t seem excited or happy with anything the team is doing.

And as much as he downplays the players and their success, you’ll see players want to play for him less. It makes sense. Not taking anything away from what he is as a manager – I think he’s a great manager. Just not the best fit anymore for Chelsea.

That’s all. Go blues.

-Voggel

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