Antonio Conte versus Pep Guardiola

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 02 December 2016, 21:46

ANTONIO CONTE versus Pep Guardiola - good cop, bad cop.

The latest battle of the Premier League’s ‘super gaffers’ kicks off at lunchtime tomorrow in a clash of title rivals and a clash of ideals on how to run a team.

Two contrasting styles of man management and while it’s difficult to decipher which is the most successful it sure is easy working out which one has the players’ backing.

Conte has performed a minor miracle at Chelsea in just a few months.

Just a few key additions to the squad but a wholehearted change of approach to the personalities in the dressing room.

Defender Gary Cahill summed it up as he gathered breath after a 2-0 win at Southampton on October 30 - only Saints’ second home defeat in 2016.

It was a few weeks since the 3-0 demolition by Arsenal in which Cahill’s confidence and cohesion hit a juddering low which he himself admitted.

Cahill told me: “If Conte had dragged me out of the team after that match I couldn’t have had any complaints. But he stuck with me and it’s time to repay the faith.”

Conte didn’t though and now look at Cahill gliding effortlessly around the 18 yard box as one of Chelsea’s virtually impenetrable trio of rock-like defenders.

Seven Premier League wins on the trot and only one goal conceded in that time. No need to ask whether Conte gets Cahill’s vote.

Diego Costa; ten goals, five bookings but an altogether more efficient striker, much more at ease with himself and the opponents who can no longer wind him up like a clock then step back and watch him explode.

Eden Hazard, skitting across football pitches around the country with a carefree abandon and back to his mesmerising old self. Why? Because he put his arm round the little Belgian’s shoulder and massaged his ego.

Conte has told Hazard to forget being a defender the way his predecessor Jose Mourinho did and ordered him to focus on dazzling the crowds, captivating audiences, putting opponents in a giddy trance.

Nemanja Matic - subbed as a sub last season which made him feel ‘terrible’ as he confided in a small huddle of writers after that same rousing two nil win at St.Mary’s.

For Conte is all about confidence, making his players feel like world beaters and to perform in the same way.

He’s an accomplished former player a respected and decorated manager and he kicks every ball with his troops.

Conte talks quietly, in plain terms about hard work but that he cares not for names, just who is the best for him and that even those not involved are still in his thoughts.

Up at Man City Guardiola has shown already that he rules in pretty much the opposite way.

Stay on your toes or your out on your ear.

England keeper Joe Hart found that out the hard way. Failing to get the message on what Guardiola demands from his no.1 in the summer and he was gone by the end of August.

Hart is now in Conte’s homeland with Torino and can’t stop himself talking to the media to remain in people’s hearts and minds from outside the Premier League loop.

Yaya Toure has rescued City in the last two games against Crystal Palace and Burnley. But only after issuing a full apology for the antics of his agent.

Dimitri Seluk claimed Guardiola had ‘humiliated’ his client by leaving him out of City’s Champions League squad.

Guardiola stood firm that as key as Toure is, he would not play again until one of the two said sorry.

Pep won and Toure is back among the midfield and the goals.

Not so much an arm around the shoulder though as a hand around the throat.

With just one point separating the two teams heading into Saturday’s lunchtime match it is hard to prove conclusively which philosophy wins but a win for Chelsea means nice guys can come first.


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