There is little excitement or elation at Stamford Bridge in the run-up to Saturday’s FA Cup final. Regardless of whether Chelsea beat Manchester United at Wembley, the season is regarded as a failure and a trophy will almost certainly not save Antonio Conte’s job.
The Italian manager is set to leave the club with a year left on his contract. Conte won the Premier League in his first campaign in England, a considerable achievement that should have been the basis for Chelsea to kick on and challenge Manchester City at the top of the table this season. Instead, the London club slipped outside the Champions League qualification slots.
Conte must take his share of the blame. Even though recruitment did not match his expectations, the team has underperformed. The energy and tactical flexibility that characterized his first season in charge faded and the players’ performances reflected their manager’s loss of vigour. For all his justifiable complaints, the 48-year-old gave the impression that he was going through the motions.
Most of the responsibility for the club’s regression lies in the boardroom, though. Chelsea’s methods have produced a remarkable turnover of managers — seven since 2010 — but those inside the club suggest that this has been no barrier to success, something the trophy cabinet bears out: This decade has brought three titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup, a Champions League and a Europe League.
Chelsea’s strategy has been underpinned by ruthlessness, with high-quality managers given little leeway by their superiors. Carlos Ancelotti was sacked a year after doing the double and Jose Mourinho won the title but was gone by the following Christmas, while Roberto Di Matteo lasted just six months after bringing the European Cup to west London. There is little patience at Chelsea for the slightest underperformance.
Conte’s relationship with the club’s board deteriorated last summer. Chelsea have long conducted a policy of downgrading the manager’s power — especially in the transfer market — and his frustration boiled over when players he wanted did not arrive. He has continually deflected responsibility towards the boardroom when talking about the squad’s failings.Read Full Story