Friday, June 22, 2018

Focus points of Antonio Conte’s early struggles at Chelsea

Milos Markovic in Editorial, English Premier League 28 Sep 2016

Antonio Conte enduring difficult start to his Chelsea career / Image via

Antonio Conte enduring difficult start to his Chelsea career / Image via

As he looked on his players being beheaded by enthusiastic Arsenal men, who have displayed utter enjoyment in their 3-0 beating of Chelsea, Antonio Conte seemed surprisingly calm and peaceful.

Chelsea players know by now however that it was just the calm before the storm as the temperamental Italian contemplated ways which he could punish his players with for a dreadful performance.

It only took six days for former Juventus and Italy boss to suffer a crash landing from cloud nine and face the painful reality of the Premier League football, the kind that never forgives even the slightest of mistakes. Six days and two troubling defeats – to Liverpool and Arsenal respectively – and the red flags are up.

Known as being easy on the trigger when it comes to axing the managers he found disappointing and unfit to do the job of leading his club forward, the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich went on to publicly profess his support for the diminutive tactician by having lunch with the Chelsea head coach at the club’s training ground on Monday.

The Russian made sure to make a point of his visit by watching an entire training session, deciding not to address the players, which is understood to have only raised the awareness of his visit.

He wasn’t always as supportive and eager to hand the much needed time to his managers, but Abramovich assured Conte he will have enough to figure out the problems and solve them in due time.

And with the trip to Hull seen as the perfect chance to get back on winning ways and record a morale-boosting win, Chelsea will make sure to help you all secure the 1/2 betting odds on the Blues with their trip to KC stadium.

A statistical insight into the forthcoming game is here for your consideration:

And as his main rivals are busy preparing for and analysing the aftermath of their European adventures, Antonio Conte will surely dwell on focus points that could help him understand the full scope of his Chelsea task.

I have decided to take it upon me to prepare several key points he should definitely put under scrutiny:

Porous Defence

Being a tactically knowledgeable manager as he is Antonio Conte lays his faith in rock solid defence, one he did not inherit and so far failed to forge during his early days at Stamford Bridge.

Having sanctioned John Terry’s one-year contract extension he did himself a big favour. The lengthy pursuit of defensive reinforcements from Serie A, most notably from his former club Juventus ended in frustration and in – some would call it – a desperate move of bringing back David Luiz from PSG.

Another summer recruit – Marcos Alonso – failed to make an impression thus far and Antonio Conte has been left with ageing Branislav Ivanovic and out-of-form Garry Cahill.

The Serbian defender Ivanovic has been a mainstay for several years and more than several managers now, surviving the cut even when things were working well against his odds. But the vice-captain is going increasingly out of his depth.  England international Cahill has been under heavy criticism for quite some time, which came hand in hand – quite deservedly – with his declining performances.

Hoping that Kurt Zouma will be able to make an impression after seven months on the sildelines will offer little reassurance for Antonio Conte who will need to make swift adjustments in the defensive department.

Toothless Attack

There was plenty of talk during summer about Diego Costa not being the type of a player Antonio Conte appreciates and wishes for in his side and the Brazilian-born Spanish international has been widely tipped to make a move out of the club.

He stayed instead and had a good start to the season, all until the Premier League pressure once again took the better of him, with rivalling players winding him up and ultimately reading his style of play, exploiting it into their favour.

Often limited to one or two touches on the ball on his own half, Diego Costa has been cut off from the attack and unable to express himself the best way he can. It was most obvious in the final game against Arsenal when Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi put in a classy performance stopping Costa in his tracks.

Lack of support from behind is a completely different issue as Diego Costa is left isolated without the creative string from players that are expected to make a difference in the centre of the pitch and in the final third – Willian and Eden Hazard – and that is another aspect Antonio Conte will have to revise.

Worrying Lack of Effort

Chelsea players appear to be doing their utmost to make Antonio Conte’s work the hardest possible. With their tracking back virtually non-existent, two of the players widely tipped to be performing key roles in Conte’s team – Eden Hazard (once again) and N’Golo Kante – have so far put in terrible displays, which were highlighted by a troubling lack of effort.

Taking the last game against Arsenal as an example once again we could make a clear statement out of N’Golo Kante’s lack of awareness. Unaware of his position and role in the team, the former Leicester City key man was of no influence in the back, and of no support for the creative midfielders and wingers. Having failed to track back he left the already fragile defence even more vulnerable which is utterly unacceptable from a player of his calibre.

Similar performance was seen from the PFA Player of the Year from 18 months ago Eden Hazard, who has been publicly criticized both by former club and country managers Jose Mourinho and Marc Wilmots, respectively, for his lack of defensive efforts. The Belgian international failed to track a quick-paced Hector Bellerin in the build-up to Theo Walcott’s goal and is slowly making Antonio Conte grow impatient. His offensive lapses are not as often as they had been and the indulgence margin is getting thinner and thinner for the Belgian.

Antonio Conte is facing a tough challenge ahead of him.

Being renowned for his team discipline, the Italian tactician is strong with his players which makes him a perfect fit for Roman Abramovich, who appears to have faith in Conte believing he could ultimately sort out the rottenness out of the Blues squad.

The question remains however – will Abramovich be patient enough?


Milos Markovic

Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently and His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.



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