The Conte-Chelsea Imbroglio

Some say sports and politics don’t mix; but I disagree, they are intricately one. A club needs a soul, an identity and an aroma…winning makes you proud and if the pride is for a city, a group or country, it becomes even greater. The soul of a club is on its emotions, transmitted to players and fans alike.

Football is teamwork, a synergy between the component, players, owners, coaches and fans. When you profile the most successful teams over the years, one thing that jumps to face is the ‘healthy’ relationship that exists or existed.

Man City went about strengthening, like a maestro, fast and sleek, making them extremely strong and favourites to wrestle the crown from Chelsea, without even kicking the ball-I dare to say…exciting time for their fans. Pep, Txiki and Ferran’s combo have shown before they can build a team that enthuses the football world at Barcelona.

The above leaves me pondering, why is Chelsea always in fits & start? We have struck a chord, what’s stopping the harmony? One would say every team has its idiosyncrasies, but my vote of no confidence goes to the board and hierarchy at the moment, knowing ‘success is generic’. Conte have started to build something for Chelsea, the prospects are so exciting and frighteningly good, make him happy. A passionate & intelligent man, who has adapted very well to the Premier league.

The healthy relationship between stakeholders, cannot be overemphasised. Football is not mere entertainment any longer, but now one of the biggest income spinners in the world- Neymar’s transfer to PSG attests to this fact. A coach need to have certain controls to succeed, like Hamilton in his cockpit on an F1 circuit, it’s become sacrosanct rather than egotic. Pep succeeded because he had direct access to Laporta, DoF, Ferran, exactly the reason all are now at Man City. Football Players now join clubs for two major reasons…the coach & the project. Messi did not leave Barcelona in 2006 when Internazionale were prepared to pay Messi’s buyout clause of 150m Euros, simply because of the relationship Laporta had with his dad and Messi.

The buck must stop on Conte’s desk in certain key areas if he’s to succeed – quite clearly he has asked for it, which has triggered the alarm bells. It’s ludicrous that he doesn’t have a direct line to RA, not these days, as this spells doom for any team. The board is indirectly responsible for the recent texting saga between Costa and Conte. The message came days after he was told he’d have to sell to buy which obviously didn’t go down well with him. Roman is not ready to sanction a spending spree as anticipated, of course this probably made him lash out on Diego in frustration. The club has raked in roughly $200m in recent player sales, $170m from winning the title, the new Nike deal puts $70m on the table, as well as the Yokohama sponsorship that generates $60m yearly, not to mention the new sleeves deal. Sign on fees and salaries are amortised annually-more revenue comes with Champions League football next season, so why is Chelsea not rapacious in this transfer window?

Chelsea is among the ‘crème de la crème’ of world football – this can be likened to a woman with perfect legs, body and eyes…when she walks into a room, you know exactly what everyone wants. Chelsea is always expected to be challenging for top honours, the risk of losing this status is real, when continuity is evaded. Football has changed drastically in the past decades; markets are so inflated, loyalty is gone out of the window, man’s avrice for more is at an all-time high- we must keep what we have!

Perception is key in football, David Moyes was relieved of his job at United, not only due to poor results, but also how he was seen. Players and prospective didn’t have confidence in his tactics – the world is full of snipers, so opponents saw it as an opportunity to get one over united and break those fetters-like records they held sway to, for many years.  This usually inevitably comes down to losing games and dovetails to revenue drop…as sponsors will see you as a weak brand.

Chelsea needs to get back to the early days of RA – Strong & swift in transfer dealings, like a casino business, you take care of the whales first, but it seems Emenalo and Marina does not have control of our transfer dealings any longer… there’s a way things look and the way things really are. Sixes and sevens in the past 3 years, not getting top targets, panic buys, abandoning deals due to little financial difference et al. Bids like Sandro remains unconcluded, Koulibaly rejected, Lukaku gone to United, Morata was almost lost, Bakayoko’s hung on the balance for what seemed an eternity…lots of rumours and  little result – is Emenalo & Marina now a case of the Cherokee man that can no longer read the depth of an impression made by a horse?   The anxiety is getting to palpable.

Antonio wants greater influence over transfer policy, which entails taking over certain responsibilities from Emenalo, the hierarchy apparently declined that, maybe they need him to sing for supper, to have breakfast, but if winning 30 out of 38 games is anything, it serves that purpose. We have over the years seen Jose, Pep et al, wedge their influence in transfers to swing decisions to their favour. We cannot over–emphasise the importance of gaffers being directly involved with who comes or goes. Roman Abramovich was rumoured to have wanted Neymar or CR7, rather than Alexis Sanchez, V.Dijk which were Conte’s choice. Bringing in players isn’t really the issue only, but getting the right ones also, who will suit the manager’s style of play.

Any coach who knows his onions will refuse player imposition, as this is the quickest way to fail. This makes me wonder the reason for technical departments, back room staff and scouts.

Over the years Chelsea fans have lost their lost their smiles like an almond joy in the sun, seeing colossal failure of players that were forced on coaches…to mention but a few, Shevchenko, Torres, Kezman, Benayoun, Crespo et al.  Antonio identified his priority targets since March, bemused at the moment, only Bakayoko has been bagged. What’s holding the rain from falling?

Conte wanted to single handedly choose his assistant, of Italian descent who will fight back to back in the trenches with him like Steve Holland did, but the Chelsea hierarchy refused initially, preferring the tradition of British No 2s (notably, Ray Wilkins, Steve Clark, Paul Clement, Eddie Newton), to be upheld, albeit some sort of agreement have been reached. Language has become an integral part of football, so you can understand his stance on that. We saw how Walter Mazzarri was sacked and why. Slutsky, the new Hull City boss took English lessons as soon as he set foot on English soil, preparing for the role he now occupies. Sources say Conte prefers to hold his meetings and tactical sessions in his native language. Guardiola studied German like a man possessed before he took the reins at Bayern Munich years ago.

Should Roman Abramovich utilize the guillotine on Conte irrespective of the reason(s), it will be horrendous. The achievements of last season and projections will be undermined…albeit sceptics will say, we succeed when we fire.

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea’s most successful coach was sacked because of this same scenario; where the club failed after winning the league to get preferred targets, leading to a shambolic defense of the championship, of course we all know how it ended- escaping relegation became the new trophy. Is it ‘Déjà vu’ or the ‘2nd season curse’? The memories…the hamartia left a lasting foul taste. There’s no proven correlation between early signings and success, however a good matador does not try to kill a fresh bull, he waits until it’s been stuck a few times. The 2015/16 narrative is still fresh.

The above issues have plagued Chelsea since Roman took over, as the chopping and changing seems endless, we might just be needing phrenology to understand better.  Conte indicated severally his commitment to the Chelsea project, of not only taking them back to EL Dorado, but sustenance, as he filters through the NextGen of Messis’ and Ronaldos’.

With the board and Conte at odds, what are the prospects of achieving these lofty targets? Is another managerial change on the horizon? 13th in 14 years? The contract enhancement Conte just signed tells the story. A house divided can’t stand.

Conte’s value is absolute and RA should make concessions, for he has earned and he deserves it. A rising tide lifts all boats, stability in winning trophies, retaining a manager for a long, consistent revenue increase and massive brand expansion are sacrosanct. Antonio wouldn’t want to concede ground, same as RA, but Chelsea’s fealty to the Russian Czar is incontrovertible- one would ask is this a situation of ‘it’s not until it is’?

The hierarchy should get things sorted out quickly and bring in 3-4 more players before August 31st – knowing that pitching underhand never makes you a winner, while Antonio searches for ‘Pulitzer in the carcasses’.

The gaffer is a man who demands perfection, seeing how his boys hobbled across the line at the end of last season, would have given him nightmares- the double only a match short, he just cannot afford a mark in the ‘loss column. Yet the question now is, what is Chelsea’s starting XI? As their competitive juice starts flowing again on Sunday against Arsenal at Wembley, hunting or gathering, last season’s momentum must be sustained and improved on- it’s a game of kill and eat or be eaten!

What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!