A Downside to Antonio Conte?
This couldn’t have come at a better time for some fans seeing the way our season is going after the ridiculously bad season we had last time out, but I guess it’s better now than later. Barring any unforeseen tragedy, the EPL trophy will be taking residence in the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet for the second time in three seasons, and that wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for the exemplary leadership and vision of Signor Antonio Conte.
As the season progressed however I kept having this nagging feeling that this all could go away in another season or two. When Jose Mourinho came back for Mourinho MKII, he said he was here to stay “for a long time” but then he was gone midway into his third season for, in my opinion, failing to adapt to the changing circumstances, and he paid the ultimate price. Like I said, no matter how the season ends for us (hopefully it ends in a good way) Conte deserves massive credit for the way he transformed the team after the debacle of last season.
However, I have some reservations about some of his decisions. I believe enough has been said about the Fabregas situation so I’m not going to say anything about that here. That being said, the Michy Batshuayi situation needs to be talked about. When he arrived from Marseille with a positive attitude to the delight of us, the fans, but the way he’s been treated since leaves a lot more to be desired. Not that anybody expected him to be the number one striker or anything but the minutes he has played in the Premier League is ridiculous considering how much we paid Marseille for him just last summer. Granted he’s still not comfortable playing in the preferred 3-4-3 formation but he won’t ever be comfortable with the formation if he isn’t getting the chance to show his worth. In the two league games Costa had to sit out this season, Batshuayi played a combined ten minutes at most. That can damage any player’s confidence even if the player still has his best years ahead of him like Batshuayi has. In the game against Everton at the Bridge he didn’t get to come on the pitch until the 80th minute even though the game was in the bag fifteen minutes earlier (Pedro scored the last of our five goals in the 65th minute). I know not being in Europe this season hasn’t helped some of our squad players as much but Conte needs to do more to prepare Batman for the challenges ahead.
This season has so far been one of the most successful, if not the most successful, for our Loan Army with many of our players out on loan excelling for their respective teams. From Tammy Abraham, Izzy Brown and Kasey Palmer taking the Championship by storm, to Lewis Baker raking in rave reviews week in week out in the Dutch Eredivisie, to Nathan Ake handling business in the Premier League with Bournemouth until he was recalled in the winter transfer window, not forgetting Andreas Christensen’ s exploits in the Bundesliga. What I found so difficult to understand in all of these success stories is the reason why we had to recall Ake when he was having such a stellar season, even if rather belatedly, just so he could come back and add to the numbers on the bench and play FA Cup games when they come around. Bournemouth is yet to recover from Ake's loss, failing to win any of their games in the league since he left, plunging them into relegation deep waters. Now I know why clubs are often reluctant to use on-loan players because ultimately you cannot count on them to be there for the long haul and that is exactly what we have proven with Ake’s untimely and totally unnecessary recall. I’m afraid we may just have dragged his development back a step even though I agree we needed cover for the LWB position but I think would have done just fine in that role. I know Conte has come out to say he doesn’t have to keep all his players happy as long as the team keeps getting the desired result but I think you can count on a ‘happy’ player to do their job more effectively than someone whose mind is somewhere else.
All would be forgiven of course if, as expected, this season ends on a good note but it’s the next few seasons I’m worried about. Aryhor Blueblood.