You look back to the 2016/17 season and you would be easily forgiven for thinking that Antonio Conte was to become THE dominant manager in the Premier League and essentially usurp managers such as Jose Mourinho and even Josep Guardiola in becoming the one to watch as such. They had turned their fortunes around following a 3-4-3 tactical shift whilst reinventing Victor Moses as a RWB rather than the traditional RW position he was used to. This proved to be a masterstroke and with new signing N’golo Kante in the middle, Chelsea looked set for European dominance. Yet this didn’t happen as I will be telling you why.
Failure to secure the Community Shield
Ok, yes I know the community shield isn’t the be all and end all and only offers silverware rather than automatic entry into the Europa League like the FA cup or Carabao cup does, but it’s the prestige of the tournament that matters. Double this up with the fact Chelsea were playing Arsenal (Who beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final to qualify) and it makes it all the more meaningful. Chelsea were ultimately thwarted by a well-drilled Arsenal who won 4-1 on penalties following a bizarre decision for Thibaut Courtiois to take, and then miss a penalty. Whilst this could be taken as a good performance considering it reached penalties, Chelsea were expected to win this and failure to do so signified a worry that should be on the mind of the boards and fans.
The sale of Nemanja Matic
In Matic, Chelsea had a stalwart that could easily be used alongside Kante to dominate the midfield against any team. Where Kante would run around for 90 minutes at max tempo and with blistering speed, Matic was the player who could bruise opens and dominate in the areas Kante lacked which was predominantly aerial battles and going to out muscle opponents. Matic appeared a total of 40 times in the 2016/17 season for Chelsea and is currently on 35 with Manchester United which shows he is a world-class midfielder who can operate at the highest levels. In attempting to replace him with Danny Drinkwater who, don’t get me wrong, is an outstanding player, but simply not the calibre of Matic, they have now lost crucial dominance in the centre of the park. Couple this with the fact they sold him to Manchester Untied, a rival, it’s easy to see how this spells a recipe for disaster which shows with their comparative league positioning. Whilst Manchester United battled it out with Manchester City, Chelsea were fighting with Arsenal and Burnley.
Diego Costa and his many, many tantrums
Diego Costa, one of footballs ultimate enigmas. You would be lying if you could tell what he was going to do for the game ahead. One minute he could be playing out of his skin and banging them in left, right and centre. The next minute he could be sent off for fighting anyone in his sight. An amazing player, with an abhorrent attitude.
In his 92 appearances for Chelsea, he managed to score 52 which isn’t a bad return at all, the issue he had during the 2017/18 season and the reason he didn’t play was down to Conte. Conte told Costa that he wasn’t to be part of his plans for the 2017/18 season and this infuriated Costa. When you have a player of his calibre but also temper, you need to try to keep them on happy at all times until you are guaranteed a sale. Considering Costa had finished as 4th top scorer in the league with 20 goals the season before and was seemingly happy at Chelsea signified a huge gamble and almost issued a ‘come and get me’ plea from Costa to Atletico Madrid. The issue was that he ran away and refused to play again for the club. Considering Chelsea had turned down £76 million for him from China then to have him disappear mid august and refusing to return with Alvaro Morata just settling it and struggling for goals isn’t ideal. He finally moved in January for £50 million but this really hit the Chelsea players morale as a want away player being kept at the club really doesn’t help anyone.
Conte’s sheer failure to strengthen
Whilst the 3-4-3 formation worked wonders for him in 2016/17, it hasn’t done so in 2017/18 and it is taking a long time to adapt and modify. You look at the other top teams of Manchester City, United, Spurs and Liverpool and you seen the managers willing to pick and choose players they think will work. For example Kyle Walker being signed for £50 million which at the time was ridiculed, yet has worked wonders for Manchester City since. Manchester United did so by rejuvenating players such as Fellaini who are now working wonders and even Liverpool by spending big to get players such as Salah and Van Dijk in to secure the areas they are weaker on. Chelsea haven’t done so. They brought in Morata who whilst an amazing player, is struggling with the Premier League and was similar to what they already had with Costa. They then brought in Zappacosta from Tornio who again, Victor Moses is similar and in my opinion better. Bakayoko, who they have Kante, Drinkwater and Fabregas for. They have seemingly brought in back up players in the hope of keeping the same form they had last year. The best managers know want to make bold statements and adapt as Josep Guardiola did with dropping Joe Hart completely. Conte is seemingly trying this but it is having adverse affects as he is leaving his best form player, Willian on the bench and failing to drop either Morata or Hazard in fear of losing face. Whilst he is currently able to have the choice of Courtois or Caballero, Hazard or Willian, soon he may lose the quality of players such as Courtois, Hazard, Kante to the teams who offer champions league football as due to this frankly sub-par season they may lose their stars to bigger fish.
Overall you can’t blame a singular reason for why Conte has failed this season as Chelsea manager. It is a wide range of events and people who have caused this and with the way Chelsea are at the moment, fluctuating from 1st to 6th I am worried they will become what Arsenal have currently, stale. In all honesty I believe the era of the ‘golden 4’ is long gone and that there is now a dominant force in the Prem who the others need to catch up to. Manchester City should be what Chelsea aim to become like domestically, Liverpool should be what they want on a continental scale, and they need to start spending like Manchester United if they are to reignite the flames from days gone by. It looks like a bleak time ahead for all Chelsea fans…
Whilst you’re here, why not check out some of the other articles we have here at DictateTheGame, where you can find other Players of the 90’s articles as well as a fantastic selection of other articles from our football obsessed crew.
Man City Aren’t That Great – Following a difficult week, DTG member Jamie looks at why Man City can’t be considered the “Best Premier League team of all time”
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Ruining English Football! – Part 3 – One of the most popular articles on the site! DTG member and avid Football Manager fan Dom has put the top teams in England on a 50 year transfer embargo and simulated the game 50 years into the future to see which teams emerge on top and where it all goes wrong for others.
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