Is Antonio Conte talking himself into the sack?

ROMAN ABRAMOVICH is suddenly not looking so daft in his dealings with the combustible Antonio Conte.

When Chelsea’s quietly brooding Italian coach signed a new contract only last summer understandable questions were asked about the terms of the deal.

A near 100 per cent pay rise yet no extra time. The initial three years but now at £9 million per annum instead of around five.

Conte looked as if he had pulled the Russian’s trousers down, bagging the deal of the century, he was laughing behind his back.

Now as we turn a decisive corner of Conte’s second season in charge there is a definite feel as if the wind has changed direction.

There is a sense that this will be his last season - that he will not be around to see out the last of the three years he signed up for.

Next Chelsea Manager Market

From arch diplomat to a man who is fighting the world; Conte has performed a 180 degree turn that even his star midfielder Eden Hazard would be proud of.

Modern English football sorts them out - it always does. Mild mannered, considered, intellectual foreigners arrive with their swarthy Continental ways and perceived sophistication.

Within a year or so they are transformed into frothing, fizzing, barking mouthpieces with a grudge against everyone and everything.

At present, Conte hates the crowded fixture list of the league which helps subsidise his mammoth ages. He can’t stand Jose Mourinho up at Manchester United and now he is turning on his own bosses in his frustration at the transfer market.

Only three days ago Conte proclaimed Chelsea had changed. It was no longer a West London bear pit, a ruthless toy arena of a super-rich Russian oligarch who hired and fired at will.

Words like trust and patience were being bandied around as if they were the new motto on the club’s badge. Those of us who have been around Stamford Bridge a while have seen and heard it all before of course - usually just prior to another ritual sacrifice of a manager.

Click here for the Premier League Sack Race

That was before Conte lost an important match to Arsenal. In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s 2-1 Carabao Cup semi final defeat Conte turned on those above him at Chelsea, just as his predecessor Mourinho did in the months before he too got the boot.

View full page