Antonio Conte joined Chelsea right after the club had finished 10th, and his journey began with a bang at home to West Ham, but his tenure was far from straightforward. There’s been bust-ups, thrills and most importantly trophies. Here’s to the rollercoaster of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea.
The first major move with Antonio Conte at the helm was the signing of Leicester’s N’golo Kante and looking back it’s been one of our best buys in the Abramovich era – so far. Kante and co began the season with a cracking late win over West Ham where we got our first glimpse of Antonio Conte and it wasn’t disappointing, the Italian was celebrating in the crowd, it was a sign of things to come. Chelsea ended up picking up maximum points in August, the perfect start for Antonio Conte.
August ended with a flurry, deadline day saw 11 players leave Chelsea, however, more importantly, the addition of Marcos Alonso of who became a key part of Antonio Conte’s squad. Alongside this Conte resigned David Luiz for the club from Paris Saint-Germain, a character that’s had his highs and his lows under Conte.
Despite the fireworks of deadline day Conte’s squad hit a rough patch, firstly a 2-2 draw away at Swansea before a 2-1 loss at home to Liverpool but the worst was yet to come as Chelsea travelled to the Emirates in a game that finished 3-0 to Arsene Wenger’s side, a huge test for Antonio Conte, Chelsea were eighth.
Antonio Conte changed the system to a 3-back formation, most notably tried by Louis Van Gaal at United. 3-4-3 was the chosen system and we never looked back, on New Year’s Day we had 13 wins on the bounce, including a trashing of Everton and beating Manchester City on their own turf. But the most impressive part of Conte’s change of system was the fact that the whole of the league had copied in an aim to get similar results and those who played Conte at his own game, lost.
Chelsea were beginning to pull away from the chasing pack and the lead that was being built up was one that even the white side of North London would struggle to throw. Our fantastic league form continued and by the end of April, we had also reached the FA Cup final, despite losing the consequential final it didn’t take away from the fantastic league season.
On May 12th we faced the trip to the Hawthorns to face West Brom and with two games to go a win would wrap up the league title. It took until the 82nd minute to make the breakthrough with Michy Batshuayi slotting home from close range. Chelsea held on and Antonio Conte had led the club from 10th to Premier League champions and had a strong bond between himself and the fans.
Winning the league wasn’t where Conte’s Chelsea finished, on the final day Chelsea beat Sunderland to win their 30th Premier League game of the season, a Premier League record. Also, John Terry’s last in a Chelsea shirt and what’s more impressive is how Antonio Conte eased him aside without any uproar. Conte had created a strong bond with the fans and one that would take quite something to break.
Relationship On The Rocks
It became clearer and clearer over the summer that Antonio Conte’s relationship with the board was strained. Conte missed out on key targets and reportedly nearly resigned over the summer and this grudge was held going into the 2017/18 season. It was clear that Conte’s squad was weaker after the loss of the likes of Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. But despite this Antonio Conte remained Chelsea’s head coach and had the full backing of the fans despite a weaker squad, this wasn’t helped as Eden Hazard suffered an ankle injury on international duty.
The title defence started in the worst possible way, 3 down at home to Burnley in a game we lost 3-2 and finished with 9 men. Next up we faced the trip to Wembley where Marcos Alonso popped up with 2 goals to beat them in their first game at the national stadium. Deadline day came around and Chelsea signed Davide Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater of which both have shown they are below the standard required at Chelsea. Conte was clearly furious with the club and it was shown by his touchline antics taking a much quieter turn over the coming months.
The Closing Stages
There were many shock results in an underwhelming season none more so than at the turn of February where we lost at home to Bournemouth and away to Watford by three goals. Many thought that Conte’s reign should have ended there but it continued and form eventually picked up. A final day hammering at the hands of Newcastle was the final of Conte’s Premier League games.
Despite the negativity, Conte led Chelsea to one last trophy after an Eden Hazard penalty sealed victory over Manchester United at Wembley. Conte had the last laugh in his feud with Mourinho. The end of the Conte era. Two years, the two biggest trophies in the country.
Thank you, Antonio.