Twelve months ago Antonio Conte took the Premier League by a storm, his passion on the touchline, determination and tactical awareness was instrumental in bringing the Premier League trophy to West London in his very first season as manager.
Big things were expected from they had everything in their favor, a Manager who was tactically superior, a talented squad and owner Roman Abramovic’s big pockets. So what really went wrong at Chelsea?
Poor Transfer Business:
Part of the reason why Chelsea Succeeded in the 2016/17 campaign was the fact that they had no Champions League football and could solely concentrate on the premier league, Antonio Conte could field the same Playing XI every week.
To put things in Perspective, Chelsea saw Branislav Ivanovic, Nathan Ake, , Asmir Begovic and Nathaniel Chalobah leave the club and first team players Kurt Zouma and Ruben Loftus-Cheek go out on loan.
In return, Chelsea signed Davide Zappacosta, Antonio Rudiger, Timoue Bakayoko, Alvaro Morata, Willy Caballero, and who were basically like-for-like replacements for the departed players. Chelsea Also recalled prodigal Centre-back from loan thereby just signing replacements rather than enhancing their squad depth.
To add to their problems the summer recruits were mere shadows of their predecessors especially Timoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata. Replacing Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa is no mean feat and both Bakayoko and Morata are talented players but this season they both seemed undercooked and sloppy.
The winter transfer window seemed to bring some relief with the signings of Olivier Giroud and left back Emerson Palmieri while out of favor forward, Michy Batshuayi was sent out on loan to Borussia Dortmund. Ross Barkley and Emerson were injured when they arrived, which meant that yet again Chelsea was short on manpower.,
Lack of Clinical Strikers:
A common factor in all title-winning sides is that one 20-goal a season striker who ensures that the team remains stable in attack and consistently finds the back of the net. Chelsea used to have that, in fact, they had one of the best men in that position, Diego Costa. Costa was an absolute beast in every sense, he was a clinical finisher, was strong on the ball and most importantly had the grit and determination that makes strikers successful in the English Topflight. One goal that sums up Diego Costa as a player came against West Brom at home, Chelsea were on top of the table and had to win to retain their top spot, West Brom had effectively shut Chelsea down for 76 minutes when Diego Costa out of nowhere bullied his way through defender Gareth McAuley before slotting the ball into the top corner from a very tight angle. That was Diego Costa when everything wasn’t going his way, he would accept the challenge head on and make sure he would come out on top.
So when Chelsea lost him and replaced him with a more subtle Alvaro Morata who seemed to know how to score only with his head and that too only off of Compatriot Cezar Azpilicueta’s crosses they had virtually lost any chance of retaining their title. I’m not saying that Morata is a bad player, he has bags of potential and is still very young but can he be the leading frontman at a club like Chelsea, NO, not at all he is still an unfinished product.
The Signing of Olivier Giroud did somewhat save Chelsea’s Season but the 31-year-old Frenchman is a tad bit slow and is towards the fag end of his career.
Giroud, Morata, and Batshuayi scored a combined 16 goals, which sums up their story this season.
Antonio Conte’s fall out with…… Everyone:
Antonio Conte in the 2016/17 campaign, made Chelsea likable again, the charming Italian had been aggressive on the touchline and in training but always stayed away from controversies and went about his job with absolute professionalism and grace.
There has been a tectonic shift in his behavior this Season. Before the season even started, it was pretty public news that Conte had told Diego Costa that he was not in his plans and had infamously conveyed his discontent through a text message. Following the Diego Costa fiasco, Conte publicly complained about Chelsea’s lack of substantial transfer business when compared to their rivals in every press conference, which I’m guessing didn’t go down well with Abramovic and the Chelsea Board.
Things just went from bad to worse when Conte had a fall out with Centre-back David Luiz that has virtually ended the Brazilian’s Chelsea career and then a war of words with former Chelsea Manager and current United boss didn’t really help his cause and just lead to some bad publicity.
Chelsea would be hoping they can put this Season behind them and collect some silverware with the FA cup final against Manchester United scheduled on the 19th of May. Can Chelsea bounce back? Will Antonio Conte be at the helm at the start of the 2018/19 campaign? Only time will tell.