Can Chelsea boss Antonio Conte become a double Premier League title winner?by Mike Holden / 09 August 2017, 12:04Tweet
Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) looks at what we can expect from Antonio Conte and Chelsea during the 2017/18 Premier League season.
Antonio Conte served up a masterclass of man-management and tactical ingenuity in his first season at Stamford Bridge, leading a team broken by Jose Mourinho on a relentless march to the title. There was a little turbulence early on but a switch to 3-4-3 in early October solved everything as Chelsea claimed a staggering 83 points from the last available 96, although the campaign ended on a sour note with defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup final. Alvaro Morata arrives from Real Madrid, Diego Costa surely departs.
Conte’s greatest skill is connecting with players, making every individual feel wanted and part of something special. He makes a concerted effort to speak with every player on a daily basis, which is why those inside Cobham considered it such a big deal when he ignored Diego Costa for a week in January. Once Conte feels betrayed, players can expect to be ostracised. It’s all or nothing in his world, there’s no in-between. He has an inner flame that can inspire players in an almost hypnotic manner.
"We know the next season will be tough and we want to avoid what happened two years ago, when the team finished tenth. Two coaches have been sacked, from Chelsea and Leicester, after winning the league. I want to avoid this and the players want to avoid the bad season they had with Mourinho. We are working very well (in the transfer market) and we hope to find the best solutions. We have a lot of young players and, if necessary, we will have to play these players."
Everybody hailed Chelsea’s continuity as a fundamental reason for their title success but there’s a flip-side to that, and it doesn’t take much to turn the tables. Conte walks on the edge of his own temperament and he starts this campaign stretched by an injury to Eden Hazard, while Costa’s front-line aggression likely to be missed. The 3-4-3 that outfoxed so many is also subject to greater intelligence, so the Italian might need to evolve again. His biggest challenge might be staying level-headed if the campaign becomes a struggle.