Date: 15th October 2017 at 7:54am
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Chelsea’s disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace yesterday revealed quite a lot. After Antonio Conte`s sleepless night he no doubt dwelt on what went wrong in South London. First consideration should have been his team selection. With injuries depleting what was already a squad light on numbers, and the games coming thick and fast, squad rotation is everything.

As has been noted many times recently on this site, Gary Cahill and Willian, in particular, are struggling for any sort of form. But it wasn`t just them. In truth, after this loss, it`s more a collective failure of form that triggered this sad demise. As a defender, our captain, probably gets off lighter than Willian, who is on the field to score or create. Much as I dislike criticising players, the Brazilian needs a break from the firing line. It could be, that like Matic he wanted to follow the Serb to United, but it didn`t happen.

Chelsea have put themselves in a difficult position by allowing players to dictate which club they move to. It’s another part of the problem that results in disharmony at the football club. Despite holding onto Costa for as long as possible and getting the best deal for them, it seemed player power was diminishing at the club. But eventually Costa, like Cech, like Matic got the move they wanted. With Hazard and Courtois having one eye on a lucrative transfer to Spain, Conte has two more players whose minds are not fully focussed on the game.

Of course it`s easy to sit at a keyboard after the event making retrospective judgements on this decision and that. Like all of us here, I`ve not been on the training field, observing the player`s fitness and attitude. Conte knows his players much much better than me. Cahill’s the captain, and without doubt leads by example, however, defensively against Palace it was a mess. He has to shoulder some of the blame. Cahill’s job is to organise those directly around him, that direction, yesterday, was unfortunately lacking.

The loss of N’golo Kante highlighted the crucial role he plays in Conte`s 3-4-3 system. With the French midfielder in the side, it’s more a 3-5-3 formation, or more appropriately a 4-4-3, given the area Kante covers. Without Kante, sidelined for a month, Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko are not an ideal midfield partnership. Whilst there`s no doubting Fabregas`s creativity, his work ethic is nowhere near that of Kante. Bakayoko shows plenty of promise but in Premier League terms he`s still raw, and I hate to say it, no Nemanja Matic.

Other options should have been considered by the manager. With David Luiz showing signs of some of his old defensive frailties, he could have been used in midfield in place of Fabregas. Andreas Christensen could easily have replaced Luiz which may have worked better. Antonio Rudiger in place of Cahill another possible change. As I said though, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

That aside, also up for some criticism should be our wing backs. Although far from being a new system, Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses took the Premier League by storm last season, patrolling the wings. They were a revelation under Conte, who was deemed a genius for employing them in those roles. It was after all, a formation change that won the league. This time round the whole 3-4-3 formation has been found out. Opposing managers have not only worked it out, but have adopted and adapted it.

The manager needs to be mixing formations up, to a degree he has. Unfortunately the squad is not big enough or for that matter, good enough to facilitate too many changes of system. His selection of formation has become too formulaic.

With four potential first team players currently injured, Moses being the latest, so thin is the squad, the team selection has been easy to predict, assuming Conte picks his best eleven for any given game. For an opposing manager, to have to beauty of practically knowing your opposition’s line-up well in advance of the actual game, makes life so much easier.

Without Morata in the team it`s difficult to see where the goals are going to come from. The game yesterday showed a team lacking depth, check the bench, as well as goals. Michy Batshuayi was given his chance to shine in Morata`s absence against the weakest side in the league. He failed to take that chance and can have no issues with sitting amongst the substitutes when Morata returns. You could argue he wasn’t provided with much in the way of service, but as a striker you have to find a way to score, that is after all in the job description. The fact that Tammy Abraham is banging the goals in for Swansea City doesn’t help the situation, it simply makes Chelsea’s loan policy look all the more ridiculous.

Footballers can all have off days, they are only human. But, there`s a collective responsibility to step up when one of your number is missing in action. That is something else that is lacking in this Chelsea team at the moment. It`s another missing piece in Chelsea`s current dysfunctional jigsaw, aside from a lack of players, and a boom and bust attitude at boardroom level, is a strong figure on the field of play. Someone to take a game or even the rest of the team by the scruff of the neck and drag a result out of them.

When it’s missing on the field, the manager has to be strong on the sidelines. For all his faults, Jose Mourinho could not be accused of being a shrinking violet on the touchline, neither can Antonio Conte. But when Mourinho called out the club’s on-field doctor, Eva Carneiro, for doing her job and attending to an injured player against his wishes, he effectively lost the dressing room. It didn`t matter what he did on the touchline, the players weren’t listening.

That incident with the doctor was the first game of the season, it set the tone for the infamous 2015-16 season. Conte’s dealings with Diego Costa, however it was done, left the team with doubts concerning his man management skills. We know how delicate the mind of a footballer can be, and despite Costa`s antics on the field of play, that frustrated both manager and fans alike, he was a popular figure amongst the players. He was very much someone you wanted in your side.

It’s not as simple as to say Antonio Conte has lost the dressing room as Mourinho did, but following the Brazilian born Spanish international`s departure from the club, he may well have mislaid them a bit. The win against Atletico Madrid papered over a crack that has the potential to deepen further. Eight games in and at least the start has not been as bad as the infamous 2015-16 season under Mourinho. Those eight games delivered two wins, two draws and two defeats. With Roma heading to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night Conte needs to get the players up and back on board before the season falters and falls as it so often does.


10 Replies to “With Costa Gone Antonio Conte Has Mislaid The Dressing Room”

  • If Hazard wants a move to Real Madrid he better hope they weren’t watching him yesterday. He did absolutely nothing. Superstar players are supposed to drag their team over the line when things are going wrong. Think Messi for Argentina last week. Hazard didn’t even look remotely interested. To think only 2 weeks ago Chelsea looked like serious contenders for the Champions League when they beat Atletico Madrid away. Now they look totally out of their depth playing against a team who hadn’t scored a league goal in 6 months. Crazy times are here again at Chelsea.

  • Conte seems to me to be a great manager when things are going well. All the jumping around that everyone loves. All the passion. But for me whenever Chelsea are badly struggling and off their game he sinks into a pit of depression and just stands on the sideline watching. All the excited animation disappears. He was like that up at Man Utd last season, he stood there doing nothing against Burnley and again yesterday. This is a guy not really used to being on the wrong end of terrible results and performances. They rarely ever happened in his 3 years at Juventus and rarely happened last season. Already this season he has lost to Burnley and Crystal Palace. One shocker a season might be forgivable. But two is worrying and a third against Watford next week could begin to look terminal knowing Roman’s record. It is safe to say we are in a fight to the death for top 4 the title has definitely gone.

  • Not that I agree with Conte?s team selection yesterday but even with the players selected it should?ve still been enough to defeat a team that couldn?t buy a goal. Some of the performances were shocking & embarrassing to say the least. Yes Hazard is world class when it?s going his way but when it?s not he displays a lack of interest similar to a sulking child. Where do we go from here, only time will tell.

  • A bit of good news, Morata is back to full training…..just saw a footage of him with the first team. Dujon Sterling has also been drafted in for Moses.

  • No one has ever seen this text from Conte to Costa , we only have Costa’s word for it . I do not blame Conte for any of that saga . The man wanted to leave last summer and last Jan, he was not the same player after Xmas .To the rest, i watched that Belgium game last Tuesday,Hazard was on fire, yesterday he could not be bothered , he is not going to get anywhere near Real with that attitude, same with Courtois, the second goal he could have saved . Yesterdays team should have clobbered Palace , a team who have not even scored , but quite simply they did not show up again . Fab, Pedro ,Musonda,Baka and Zappa were the only ones that seemed to care. What is it with these players ? , this has been going on since Mourinho’s last tenure . We are out of the title race already and locked in a battle with Spuds, Dippers and Le Arse for 3rd or 4th place . Sorry but some of them are not earning that salary . Back to yesterday the ref Mariner also let Palace get away with thuggery, and time wasting, there were some ball boy shenanigans again, Puncheon probably wasted about 20 minutes of playing time, everytime we seemed to rev up to attack the whistle went for offside .Like in 14/15 we have been getting some really shabby treatment from refs this season, we lead the league in yellows and reds, yet our players are kicked off the pitch with no punishment .

  • If we fail to beat Roma, there will be trouble as Watford with the way they are playing will be too good to beat even at stamford bridge with a fragile if not broken confidence and then the real vultures will begin to gather. At this rate, Conte might be out of job before the close of the season 4gjf

  • Very good comment @Michael Reid. But if the referees overlook fouls on our players, it is partly because the referees use their discretion to give the benefit of the doubt. Our players, especially the forwards don?t fight for the ball at all. They believe in this sleek smooth gliding with the ball, losing it in crucial areas and waiting for the referee to make calls in their favour all the time. The only exception are our old Samuel Eto?o, Pedro, Charles Mosunda (who is already showing the fight) and of course our ?Little big man?, Kante. That is why they are sometimes booked for being aggressive. Is any of these four feisty players bigger than Harzard, Willian, Alonso or Batshuayi? NO. Everyone talks about our weak defense. Our forward line does very little or nothing to pressure upfront, fight for and retain the ball, thereby making our defense one of the most overloaded ones in football. WE LACK ENERGY IN OUR TEAM!!! Let us call back RLC and Abraham before some pundits turn their heads.

  • I am with you Theo, perfect assessment, we are going to be stretched this week with Watford being the early game on Saturday and Roma on Wed, at least they are both home games, and Everton the following Wed , Conte is going to have to use some kids . I am sick of Hazard downing tools, do not accept that he is just back from injury ,he was great for Belgium , but the player we need to drop is Willian , he is beyond useless right now.

  • Yes, you’re right Cobham et al, the world’s best and most dominant manager has become a clot overnight. Seriously? Compare the Chelsea squad with the Manchester teams. And then shut up. The manager can only do so much but in the end it is the players who need to execute. You may not have noticed that, according to the world, N’Golo Kante is the best player in the Premiership. With Matic gone there is simply no replacement. And anybody who thinks that’s young Baka’s job: the youngster’s only played a couple of Premiership; he’s spent his entire career in Ligue 1 where duffers like Palace just roll-over. Anybody in charge of the purse-strings – and at CFC it is 100% the suits on the board – can predict what will happen if you sell Matic and Kante gets injured; YOU WILL LOSE! That’s what will happen. Not only the manager knows it, the players do too. Players like Willian and Cahill who are clearly on the downslope of their careers have become used to N’Golo doing all the dirty work: on Saturday they were in culture shock. Instead Palace did all the dirty work with predictable results. JC

  • In a perfect world Conte would request Costa to sit with him in talks regarding his future ,so I refuse to think ditching by text is not disrespectful especially if the season ended on a high,Diego was your Hitman who did this work perfectly on the pitch.I though refuse to consider Conte 100% guilty on that issue,but even considering Diego has asked to go in January,he completed the season and was 100% committed ,so he owes you more than a text if u wanted parting ways

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