For a trigger-happy owner like Roman Abramovich, it doesn’t take too much to fire a manager. Antonio Conte found that after he was shown the door yesterday, despite having the best win percentage (67%) of any Chelsea manager who has served for a full season or more. What are some of the reasons that gave Abramovich his justification in showing the Italian tactician the door?
The Diego Costa saga
Conte attempted to impose his managerial authority over team and club at Stamford Bridge by pushing striker Diego Costa out of the club, as he felt the Spanish forward was not helping the team dynamic. The only problem was that Costa had been the main source of goals as Conte romped to the title in his first season in charge.
The former Juventus and Italy boss apparently informed Costa that he was no longer in his plans via text message. This move forced the club’s hand and they sold their star man back to Atletico Madrid. Without him, they failed to replicate a similar level.
Football is a highly results-oriented business. The lifespan of an underperforming manager seems to be decreasing by the day, especially in the Premier League. The Blues struggled on this front last season, as they fell from champions to finish fifth and miss out on Champions League football next season. At Stamford Bridge, that will almost always guarantee the sack for the manager.
It is a little bit unfair to blame poor transfer business on Conte, as Chelsea tend to conduct a lot of their player transfers despite the preferences of the manager. The handling of Costa, however, caused a ripple effect that saw the club chasing a striker to replace his goals. They were beaten Romelu Lukaku by Manchester United, but Conte claimed that he landed his personal first choice in Alvaro Morata.
In his defence, Conte protested the sale of key midfielder Nemanja Matić but the club proceeded with the sale anyway. Tiemoué Bakayoko, the man brought in to replace the Serb also failed to replicate his impact as the team struggled. Willy Caballero, Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley also failed to live up to expectations.
At Juventus, Conte famously fell out with the board because they failed to deliver his preferred signings. It appears as though a similar challenge might have reared its head at Stamford Bridge and rendered his position at the helm untenable. He has cemented his place in Chelsea’s history, but for now he joins his predecessors in facing the sharp end of Abramovich’s axe.