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Has Antonio Conte Managed to Silence the Talk about an Exit?

As you may have heard lately, there’s been some talk that several Chelsea players are unhappy with the state of the club. This would be understandable in general given the relative turmoil we’ve seen already in the 2017-18 campaign, and the slippage beneath Man City and other leaders in the standings. Specifically, however, it has appeared that Chelsea players are unhappy with Antonio Conte, suggesting that he’s training them too hard. The idea is that Conte hasn’t altered his training outlook this season despite the fact that the club is now balancing both the Premier League and Champions League schedule (whereas it was not involved in major European competitions a season ago).

This has led to some fairly alarming headlines in just the last week or so. Some are wondering if a crisis is brewing at Stamford Bridge, or if the players are unhappy, rather than simply frustrated. It’s been suggested that the rumoured intense training schedule could be responsible for some of the team’s injuries already, which could certainly lead to even more distrust from players.

Manager instability, frankly, was not supposed to be part of the equation for Chelsea this season. This is the sort of thing usually reserved for smaller clubs looking to make their marks and growing impatient, or for Arsenal, whose leader Arsene Wenger was tabbed to be leading the EPL managerial sack race once more this season, with some fans frustrated he has yet to move on. At Stamford Bridge, with Conte having so thoroughly righted the ship after the brief but disastrous Jose Mourinho era, these sorts of headlines have more or less come out of nowhere.

That’s not to say Conte too has entered the sack race. It would be an extraordinarily reactive and premature decision for the club brass to consider such a move just yet. Even so, however, when writers and analysts are throwing terms like “crisis” around, it’s quite clear that a situation needs fixing.

But might it already have been fixed? For his part, Conte has actually denied the controversy to begin with. He’s claimed that he’s not training the players as hard as he did a year ago, having adjusted to the 2017-18 schedule and the added burden of Champions League play. More importantly, however, the club answered a week of questioning, troubling headlines with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Watford. Following this match it was stated (correctly) that Conte’s tactical changes were spot on, and the players responded accordingly. We don’t want to get carried away based on an October win over Watford, but it felt like the sort of result that can get a club going.

At the very least, this latest result should quiet controversies for the time being, and if the Blues can build on the win with a positive stretch of play, some of the recent Conte headlines may soon begin to look silly.