Antonio Conte is the still the Chelsea manager – but only by name, as the Italian’s reign in South West London appears to be all but over. Two back-to-back defeats by a margin of more than three goals for the first time since 1995 has left Conte’s position at the club looking untenable. Abramovich has been known to fire managers for less and the fact that the Chelsea owner hasn’t seen fit to give the 48-year-old the bullet yet has left many surprised.
There doesn’t look to be any way around Conte’s current circumstances at the club, with rumours of dressing room unrest rife. A manager is only respected and listened to until he isn’t, and sadly for Conte, his team look to have stopped playing for him. When an owner gets wind of a players’ revolt, it is always the manager that pays the ultimate price. The power of the people always wins and the guardians of football clubs can’t sack 25 players, sending a manager on his way is the only option.
As for why Roman Abramovich hasn’t replaced Conte yet, there are no conclusive reasons being bandied about. There have been murmurings of how much it will cost the Russian to do so and the figure mentioned is £13m. A huge sum indeed, but in terms of what is in Abramovich’s bank, it is not enough of a reason to suggest that is the delay. When Abramovich fired Jose Mourinho after his second spell in charge, it cost him £30m to see the back of the Portuguese manager and his backroom staff.
The more likely reason would be there isn’t anyone to step into the role at this moment in time. That will be a concern for the Chelsea owner now as a top-four finish has to be the goal in the Premier League. Only one point separates Chelsea from fifth-placed Spurs; William Hill have Chelsea at 8/15 to finish in the top four but with Man United, Man City, Tottenham, and Liverpool, as well as a trip away to the revived Swansea, there is no guarantee Chelsea will pick up maximum points in the run-in.
When a new manager comes into the club, there is an automatic upturn in a team’s results. A depleted and uninspired squad comes back to life with the onus now back on the players to perform and prove themselves to the new manager. If Chelsea are to get through to the end of the season in a Champions League spot then they will need a shot to the arm.
Winning the Champions League to secure their spot at next season’s event like they did in 2012 looks anything but a given, with Barcelona lying in wait in the round of 16 when the competition gets underway again. Conte is a very good manager with a proven track record but his time at Chelsea seems to be up with the team in a mini freefall. The Stamford Bridge outfit will need to begin preparing for life after Conte sooner rather than later.