VAR controversy covered up the alarming weaknesses in Antonio Conte's Chelsea

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 19 January 2018, 10:33

ANTONIO CONTE refused to criticise anyone directly involved in the extraordinary Video Assistant Referee cock up that overshadowed Chelsea’s fortunate win over Norwich this week.

It was an unusually diplomatic stance from a manager who has been machine-gunning his arch enemy Jose Mourinho in recent days and has declared himself ‘ready to fight the world’ on behalf of his club if anyone dares cross him.

Most other managers would have let rip with both barrels over the shambolic breakdown in communication between VAR Mike Jones and the man in the field Graham Scott which led to Chelsea being denied a penalty in their FA Cup third round replay.

It could have spared everybody extra time and penalties, preserving the legs of Conte’s players in readiness for tomorrow’s early kick off at Brighton.

Conte said it was a ‘big mistake’ but decided against a full-scale assault on the short-sighted officials who missed Timm Klose’s foul on Willian eight minutes from time. And there’s a good reason why.

The controversy fell perfectly like a soft picnic blanket drifting to the ground on a summer’s day to cover up the alarming weaknesses in Conte’s team.

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While those interested argued the merits and flaws of VAR and the poor eyesight of ref Scott, there were no probing questions about the fact Chelsea have started 2018 like an old car struggling to get going on a frosty morning.

One win, from a penalty shootout against Championship opposition; no goals in six games for £60 million striker Alvaro Morata, only three goals from six games since the turn of the year. It’s a massive downward turn from the way they saw out 2017 with a 5-0 thrashing of Stoke.

The fact that two of his players were justifiably booked for diving during Wednesday’s crazy cup night against Norwich must also be of concern.

Pedro was a winger for Barcelona and is now a highly paid member of the squad at the English champions. Yet he has to resort to taking a tumble to try to gain an advantage over a team in the bottom of the Championship.

Morata had two weak efforts on goal the same night he went to ground easily under a challenge from Christoph Zimmerman.

Danny Drinkwater was Chelsea’s best striker until Michy Batshuayi – the player who cannot get a first team game – tapped in a goal ten minutes into the second half.

Other than that Chelsea missed chances, defended terribly and Conte was forced to bring on FOUR of his superstars to try to shore things up when what he really wanted was to give them a night off.

We did not need any kind of video replays to realise that Chelsea were a shambles on Wednesday.

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30,000-odd fans in side Stamford Bridge could see that with their own eyes. The team not playing well is an old-fashioned problem that has dogged managers for years.

Conte has to re-assemble his squad for a tough game this weekend, keeping up the pretence of challenging for a Premier League title that is already won. His main goal is the top four now and unless his players start hitting the net that is far from certain.

There won’t be V.A.R to cover up for him at The Amex Stadium because the new hi-tech system designed to end all debate about refereeing in football is so unreliable it can’t yet be trusted in a competition that actually matters.

It’s a shame for Conte because the one thing designed to put every aspect of a football match on display actually covered up his problems this week.

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