Chelsea boss Antonio Conte on the cusp of Premier League gloryby Andy Dillon / 12 May 2017, 12:12Tweet
IT’S difficult to imagine Antonio Conte putting a foot wrong at the moment.
To arrive in England and drag Chelsea out of the doldrums in less than a year is a remarkable achievement especially when he has only tinkered with the team.
Tonight he can clinch the Premier League title and cap a stunning debut season and follow it up in a couple of weeks by winning The FA Cup.
Nobody will deny the Italian has done a brilliant job. But there is one small problem.
Where does he go from here?
Once the hangovers clear, the ticker tape is swept up and the open top bus parked round the back of Stamford Bridge again there really is only one direction and that is upwards, to win The Champions League.
Setting the bar so high this season is a superb addition to Conte’s CV but every manager will tell you it is about ‘improving’ and ‘building’ year on year.
Maybe Conte is just about to make life difficult for himself - he may become a victim of his own success.
The first rule of the workplace is not to be too good too soon. Keep the boss happy but don’t overdo it. It’s the oldest trick in the book and any fool knows it.
Next season, Conte will kick off as a Double winner. So naturally, as Chelsea fans pay their inflated prices for season tickets they will be demanding more for their money.
It happens all the time. Look at Southampton. Manager Claude Puel is seriously under threat because in his first season he will not be able to match or improve on the sixth place finish last year.
It’s soon forgotten that last season was an anomaly, a one-off in which Leicester won the flippin’ title at odds of 5,000/1.
Southampton played in Europe and reached a major cup final but so what? It’s not considered an improvement on the top six so Puel could well get the boot.
The same goes for Mark Hughes and Stoke and the hat-trick of ninth placed finishes the Welshman has achieved at one of the league’s smaller clubs.
It’s all about onwards and upwards, which is fair enough but when you’ve hit the ceiling in your first year then you become a tough act to follow.
Conte says he needs a bigger squad to cope with the return of Champions League football next season.
Six extra games and a lot more travelling in the run up to Christmas alone will put a strain on his resources.
And having won the trophy before Chelsea fans are used to success in Europe. An admirable failure in the group stages will not be tolerated.
Last 16? No. Quarter finals? No. It’s the semi finals at least to put next season down as genuine progress, even though Conte says he has only just started laying the foundations of a new Chelsea.
In modern day football, building work must be quicker than that which is seeing the London skyline change daily with the mushrooming tower blocks in the heart of the city.
Let’s be honest, we all like the odd slow day where we keep the guv’nor off our backs but hide in the shadows.
Conte’s rapid progress at Chelsea has just ruined life for the workers of Britain - and himself.