In his first job outside of his native Italy, Antonio Conte (and thus, Chelsea) are doing better than just about anyone would’ve expected, leading the charge in the Premier League with 55 points in 22 games, a rather remarkable feat (though one that Chelsea have seen twice before during José Mourinho's first stint at the Bridge).
Over the past few months, we’ve come to learn what makes Conte’s world tick: hard work, constant improvement, team spirit. He’s a master tactician with a workaholic mindset, a great man manager with an eye for every single little detail, and a real throwback to the days of actual head coaches, who are (mostly) concerned simply with coaching and teamwork, rather than miscellaneous management tasks, mind games, and the like.
By all accounts he’s created a friendly, yet demanding environment, and one that the players have started to believe in since the summer, but especially once the 3-4-3 clicked into place.
In short, Conte has been the centrepiece of Chelsea's turnaround from last season’s dreadful performances. So let’s sing his praises a bit.
"Yes, Conte has been very important this season. He works quite well, especially when it comes to tactics. Our work during training sessions is reflected in every match."
-Pedro; source: ESPN Brasil
Pedro’s a relatively new face still at the Bridge, but others like César Azpilicueta have seen a fair few managers come and go. While some may have espoused some of the core tenets of Conte’s methods, there have been a few drastic changes, largely all for the better. Despite a couple new faces this summer, there’s been an increased emphasis on youth and utilizing the club’s current resources, for example.
Conte, unlikely many of his predecessors, has been more than willing not only to work with the squad he was given, but improve each and every one of them, or find them a role in the team that suits them best.
"The truth is that since his first day at the club, he came in with plenty of will to work with the players. We have worked very hard since the first day of preseason and we keep on doing that in each and every training sessions, and on the pitch as well."
"He demands a lot from us and in football, what matters are the results. So far, we are getting them."
-César Azpilicueta; source: ESPN Brasil
One of the more interesting stories that came out of the Chelsea camp early on was how the players found the training methods a bit “boring”. A renewed emphasis on fitness and practiced movements (as opposed to improvisation) no doubt led to plenty of repetition. But with the results going as well as they are, there’s plenty of belief in Conte’s methods of madness.
"I think [Antonio Conte] pays very close attention to details, primarily in the defensive part of the game. He likes to work a lot. And there is no secret in football: hard work."
"He works a lot, and sometimes we complain since the work is a bit tiresome. But it is important as we get to have more stamina during games to run more than our opponents."
-David Luiz; source: ESPN Brasil
As Joe Cole pointed out in his interview with Chelsea Fan TV, footballers aren’t truly happy until they can complain about something.
Long may all this complaining about Conte last!