Antonio Conte: Chelsea’s man of the season

Antonio Conte. Premier League winner. Yet another manager to rock up to the Bridge, quickly work out the lay of the land and turn a squad into title winners. Has anyone mentioned that he didn’t exactly go and spend a fortune to do it, either?

Conte joins quite an illustrious group following Michy’s late winner the other night. Jose won the title in his first season, Carlo did the double at the first time of asking, Rafa won the Europa League, Guus won the FA Cup and who could ever forget Bobby Di Matteo winning both the FA Cup and Champions League having taken over during the season?

What is it about Chelsea, their managers and their ability to win silverware almost immediately when others, yes I am looking at you Arsene, seem to always be waiting for their next harvest?

This isn’t a “who has won more trophies” kind of chat, we all know that Arsene “revolutionised” the modern game just after Sir Alex turned United into the modern day powerhouse and just before Roman fancied a team in blue a little bit more than a team in white.

I’m talking solely about a system that seems to break all the rules of “stability” is the best way to success. Are Chelsea successful due to the chaos, or in spite of it?

Before the more statistically minded of you start thumbing through this piece looking for facts and figures, go and make a coffee – this is all good old fashioned opinion and, dare I venture gut feeling.

To the outside world Chelsea look like a club in perpetual chaos. If you don’t win the league within a couple of seasons, you are often out of the door in the Roman era. That said, it is almost understandable. Claudio was given a lot of money and went close. Then the cult of Jose appeared and, following a somewhat considerable investment once again, a title winning side was built. Jose dominates, Jose self combusts. Sure, it wasn’t until Carlo appeared that the club went back to winning the title, but they were hardly drought years like other clubs have suffered. I mean, Chelsea have done OK if they can consider FA Cups, Europa Leagues and Champions League wins without the Premier League as tricky years, right?

So are they in perpetual chaos?

For me, no. There is something extra at play which works. Underneath the image of chaos there is a truck load of stability.

John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba, Joe Cole, Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ramires. These are all players that have played over 150 times for Chelsea in the Premier League. As you can see, you can chart the entire Roman Abramovich era through some of these players and how they overlap. And, to be honest, they aren’t bad players are they? So, I give you exhibit A of stability – a very, very strong core of players who know the club inside out, almost like Milan used to have, or Juventus currently or, dare I mention them again, Manchester United when they used to really win things.

Exhibit B folks – clever managerial recruitment on the whole. The “board” at Chelsea have learned this football thing pretty quickly, and their managerial appointments have, generally, done the job. I’m not just talking about the fact they’ve been able to go out and attract some of the biggest managerial names out there, but they’ve typically got the managerial style right for the moment. Everything was a little cosy under Claudio. Bring in Jose, one of the most demanding men on the planet. Job done, yet you can only work that way for so long before people burn out. Avram was a more gentle soul, and let’s never forget that he was only a slip away from being in history forever. After the nice guy routine grew old with the players, they needed a drill sergeant again – Big Phil. OK, this one didn’t work out so they opted back for the gentler approach in Guus then Carlo. Notice that the players that were young and hungry and Jose and needed discipline were older here, and probably needed a more “fatherly” approach than a military approach to get success. It worked. Until it didn’t. After Carlo, Roman fancied the next Jose but misjudged the situation as the senior players were never likely to respond to a coach younger than them, not again, anyway. They’d won more than he had, for crying out loud. Di Matteo picked up the pieces by just being nice and letting JT run things, and Rafa was needed to get the inmates back under control. Which brings us back round to Jose, titles and the need for Guus to come in and be nice to everyone once again.

And then Antonio. Mad, crazy, but ultimately successful Antonio Conte.

You see, Chelsea do know what they are doing. Providing you trust the structure and don’t rely 100% on the manager being the be all and end all, you can win lots of things by changing the guy in the dugout quite a lot – providing you keep stability on the playing staff and choose the right man to manage them at the right time.

What you don’t do, Manchester United are you listening, is appoint back-to-back managers who do not fit your playing staff, when you have lost all semblance of stability in your squad.

You would not have been able to say this a decade ago, but Manchester United and Arsenal should probably take a look at Chelsea and see what they could learn.

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