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Chelsea dismiss Conte concerns, but draw hard line in sand over control at same time

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Never a boring day at Chelsea Football Club

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West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

One of our base assumptions when dealing with media reports is that when certain journalists write basically the same article, they’re likely to be based on a single source. Usually we see this with the Telegraph’s Matt Law and the Guardian’s Dom Fifield when they report based on Chelsea briefings and/or information club sources. They’re not the only ones who have access to solid inside info from Cobham, but they’re two of the most consistent in this regard.

So when they both come out with stories about Chelsea making it clear that the existing power structure of the club will stay in place and that “Conte will be given short shrift by the Chelsea hierarchy if he attempts to exert greater control” as Fifield phrases it, or that “Conte will be fighting a losing battle if he tries to take full control at Chelsea” as Law does, there is plenty of room for concern even if we take the club at face value when they also say that they fully expect Conte to be in charge next season, that Conte himself is mystified by these rumors from Italy, and that everything is hunky-dory peachy-keen and we’re making big signings and so on and so forth. (And Conte himself repeatedly saying that his job is simply to coach and improve and win.)

Alternative title: "How we stiffed Conte, why that won't change and why he might dump us". Thanks for the seasono!

It’s this response from Chelsea-sourced journalists that’s the truly concerning part of the matter, not helped by the constant harping on the financial impact of Conte’s text message and Costa’s subsequent revelation of it.

If there is a power struggle, even just a hint of one, there is only ever one outcome, only one eventual loser. It might not happen anytime soon, but one day it will. (It’s not necessarily something to worry about now, but it is a background constant, like a season-long Doctor Who villain arc). We’ve seen it before, we’ll see it again. It’s how Chelsea operate, for better or worse, and usually for the better.

Did Conte overplay his hand? Also possible.

Is this all just paranoia? Also possible.

Imagine Conte ditches us today, tomorrow, next week, next month. Who comes in? Tuchel, the control freak? Hiddink again? Slutsky went to Hull City so that ain’t happening. In a hilarious bit of timing, technical director Michael Emenalo was awarded his coaching badges* yesterday after completing the 18-month UEFA Pro License course.

Could you imagine?

Why on Earth would Emenalo need coaching badges? Maybe it’s to better understand the head coaches he has to work with. Maybe it’s for more sinister purposes. Maybe it’s just a nice thing to have, like a constant improvement item on his annual performance review metrics.

(Part of me — the part that just wants to watch the world burn — wants that to happen one day. Just to see what happens. Now excuse me for a second while I take that part of me out behind the woodshed.)

And we’re back.

So Chelsea reassure and then reassert. Meanwhile Conte’s on vacation — and supposedly spending lots of time on the phone, according to supposedly eagle-eyed Sky Italia spies — and Chelsea are putting contract talks on hold and announcing signings only in July.

Because that’s what you do on when everyone is on vacation.

And it’s also what you do when there’s something actually going on behind the scenes — not sure what, but something; big, small, who knows? Probably nothing. Maybe something. All is calm until it isn’t.

Even if the Italian reports are made up, the Chelsea response is oddly strong and final. Here’s the line in the sand, you better not cross it. Why would they need to serve a public reminder — surely, Conte knew what he signed up for last summer? (Calma, Antonio, and rake it reasy.) I mean, if he expected full control at any point, someone gave him some terrible directions. Surely, we all know how the market works and that it’s not like FIFA or FM? Surely, Chelsea know that Conte has at least two priors, Bari and Juventus, of not taking a lack of trust and cooperation and shared vision lightly from a club’s hierarchy.

We’re halfway through June and been told that no concrete action will occur until at least two weeks from now. This is normal. This is fine. It is actually fine, not as in the meme. That’s what we always do; sign players in July and August. Policy is policy, reasons are reasons. We operate the way we operate and that’s good because it breeds success and trophies. And change and discord. And stability, though not at the managerial level.

As Martin wrote earlier, the Chelsea Board must back Conte. And by all accounts, they are doing just that — and have done that all season in an “unbridled” fashion to use Fifield’s word — if perhaps not as quickly as many, including Conte himself maybe, had imagined this summer. So what are concerned about? Probably nothing. Maybe something. We are half a month into a three-month transfer window. All this will blow over just like the sacking rumors from September, which turned out to mean the exact opposite in fact.

Pre-season starts in three weeks. Would be nice if it did tomorrow.

* Joe Edwards, who’s returning to a coaching role next season with the Chelsea U21s did as well. Congrats to both Edwards and Emenalo on their UEFA Pro Licenses!