Is the pressure getting to Chelsea boss Antonio Conte?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 12 December 2017, 13:14

FOR A MAN so concerned with his appearance, Antonio Conte looked like he had not been home all weekend on Monday.

Normally for a man that’s a good thing. But Conte looked anything but the man about town who had spent a couple of nights on the tiles.

This was a dishevelled wreck. Unshaven and unkempt, scrunched up in his Chelsea issue blue tracksuit addressing the media ahead of tonight’s (Tuesday) tricky trip to Huddersfield.

A game which should be routine has now taken on much more serious proportions given the events of last Saturday.

A defeat for one of the big boys is always exaggerated in the modern money-worshipping world of football. But losing to West Ham, a team close to rigor mortis, is a grave error.

Conte loves nothing more than to win. The Italian even named his daughter Vittoria to chime with his relentless pursuit of victory.

Such a feeble performance from his struggling champions at the London Stadium really seems to have got to him this time. As well it should because the Hammers are not very good.

The intelligence from above is that Conte is now under more pressure than ever before. His relationship with the club’s board and ultimately owner Roman Abramovich is growing more and more fractious.

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The feeling is that Conte has done nothing but complain this season because things have got a little harder.

For a man who likes to look good with his pristine teeth and expensive hair, he also claims to be a workhorse; a tough guy who sees the answer to every problem is putting your shoulder to the yoke.

Yet he is also capable of impressive whinging : fixture congestion, a small squad, tired players.

And even thought the TV companies pay around £11 million to every club for every live televised game, Conte is still not happy.

Chelsea have been beaten before of course. Last season’s 3-0 thrashing at Arsenal was a landmark moment in his tactical thinking because the head coach turned his formation on its head and went on to win the title in his first season in England.

But something seems to have changed in Conte’s demeanour in the past few days. The pressure may be finally getting to him. After all with an average life span of around three years, he is approaching the halfway point of his expected stay at Stamford Bridge anyway.

Slightly barbed comments that he can only offer his opinion on new signings to the board is a classic buck passing exercise. If Chelsea fail to sign anyone in January then crash out of the Champions League against Barcelona then it’s not his fault is it?

Conte says ‘I am only the coach, I give my opinion but I am not the sporting director or a manager’.

Conte deliberately asked to be referred to as head coach when he took on the job of dragging Chelsea up from mid-table after a disastrous year under Jose Mourinho.

That way he can say his piece in private but appear totally excluded from blame in public.

It’s a risky move to make when your Russian boss is used to hiring and firing people like he is choosing veg in a supermarket.

Conte tries his best to hide his real thoughts when he addresses the media but this week his body language has said far more than words ever could. And we may just have witnessed the beginning of the end for Chelsea’s latest coach.

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