Antonio Conte is leaving Chelsea after two seasons in charge. A lot of fans are in a jubilant mood, while others are down, and in a few hours, another manager will be announced, and he will be history, along with all we suffered under his reign. But the problem that led to his departure, and the never-ending cycle of hiring and firing may continue if we do not arrest it dead in its tracks once and for all.
Conte’s pedigree as a manager was never in doubt before he came to Chelsea. The man had previously won numerous Serie A titles with Juventus, so it was a matter of when, not if he’d deliver at Stamford Bridge; even though there was the possibility of minor struggles seeing as English football is a tad different from Italian football.
The man came and delivered an EPL title in his maiden season in charge – a feat that not even his more celebrated colleagues in the industry like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho couldn’t do in Manchester United. Following our title triumph in 2016/17, one expected we’d build on it, and become even stronger, instead, we ended up finishing fifth the following season.
Last season wasn’t the first time we’d struggle after a title-winning season. In 2015/16, we also had a hard time keeping the momentum. It led to Mourinho’s sack, and although his case can be excused, considering he had the backing of the board, that of Conte will not.
Towards the end of our title-winning 2016/17 season, Conte began to bemoan the lack of support he received from the Chelsea board over transfers. He wasn’t quite taken seriously, and by the time he was, we had already missed out on key transfer targets.
It is quite appalling that a club as big as Chelsea would find it difficult to respect and uphold football management ethics. Everywhere in the world, the head coach reserves the exclusive power of deciding which players come in and out of the club; at least, that’s how professional organisations run things. The Chelsea management refused to allow Conte run his team his way, and that is chief among the reasons the man failed in his second season. He missed out on his targets, and had to settle for the board’s instead – a development no one would be happy with.
So when people keep blaming Conte for our poor performance last season, I find it heartbreaking, because it isn’t totally true. The man did have his inadequacies, but he wasn’t a bad coach. He only failed because he didn’t get enough support.
The way I see it, there has to be a redress of the situation at the club, if we must truly move forward. Mourinho suffered this same fate in his first Chelsea reign, which prompted his resignation at the time. To say that Sarri wouldn’t face the same feat will be a bold statement.
The board needs to know their place, and allow actual football management and decision making go to whom it should. Business is a complex thing to manage, but there’s only two ways to get full success – you either run it yourself, or hire someone to. If you choose the latter, then you must hands-off and allow them work, otherwise, if things take an ugly turn, you will not be spared when the blame game begins.