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Summer Reading: “The Italian Job: A Chelsea Thriller Starring Antonio Conte” by Mark Worrall

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

How many fine details of Antonio Conte's first season at the helm of one of England's, and Europe's, most daunting managerial postings can you recall? Even though the season ended only three months ago, the list may only include:

  • Chelsea winning the Premier League title.
  • Losing to Arsenal 3-0, but saw the first appearance of the back three at that match.
  • Chelsea winning the Premier League title.

There's probably some other specific standout moments you remember, but for those of us with Twitter timeline-sized memory banks, Chelsea supporter and esteemed author Mark Worrall chronicles every moment of the Italian's magical first season in charge in his new book, The Italian Job: A Chelsea Thriller Starring Antonio Conte”. You should remember some of his previous books (and if not, there’s an easy way to fix that!): "Making History, Not Reliving It: A Decade of Roman's Rule at Chelsea," "Over Land And Sea," or "This Damnation". Mark, in addition to being a fantastic gentleman and author, has immense foresight — as evidenced by his views on the board’s appointment of Conte being an express ticket back to title contention.

Mark's most recent book reminds me of "Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season" by Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan. Much like King and O'Nan's account of the curse-breaking season for the Red Sox, Worrall's "Italian Job" breaks down every single match (even the preseason results against Austrian sides Rapid Vienna and WAC RZ Pellets) from his perspective. It isn't just a combination of box scores and superior stats — he provides the colorful anecdotes only a True Blue™ could use to tell the story of the season.

Mark beautifully captures many of the season’s lightning rod moments and liberally applies his wit in their retelling. So much happens in a season — a formational shift that spurs a 13 game win streak, Super Frank retires from football — that makes this book necessary for your bookshelf. Whether that’s an actual shelf in your home, or a digital collection of pixels nestled in an app, doesn’t matter as the book is available in e-book and paperback.

He offers up a particularly wonderful description of Hazard’s goal vs. all of Arsenal, We Ain’t Got No History readers’ favorite from Chelsea’s 16/17 season. “With a shimmy to the left and a jink to the right, he set off on a a mazy run leaving the Gunners trailing his wake. ‘Tough-guy’ Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin then ran at... and bounced off the comparatively diminutive-looking Blues man... that was funny... funnier still in the YouTube replays watched endlessly without boredom later on.”

Whatever your favorite moment of the season is — Chalobah’s shove of Agüero, for instance — Mark made sure all of them are appropriately preserved for review by present and future Chelsea supporters. His real skill as a wordsmith, though, is deftly connecting the supporters’ soul to the most important of moments. Nowhere in the book is this more present than when he recounts the the home match vs. Hull City on January 22.

Absent from many match reports, Mark speaks about the 55th-minute remembrance for Carl O’Brien, known among supporters as Wurzel, who passed away after injuries sustained from an assault just before Christmas. “Carl’s photo was displayed on the large monitors at half-time when stadium announcer Neil Barnett delivered a short eulogy and a banner was unfurled during the minute’s applause which read R.I.P. Carl ‘Wurzel’ O’Brien.”

So while transfer rumors plague your feeds and preseason matches only whet your whistle for the real deal, relive one of the greatest season’s in Chelsea long history and gain further appreciation for Antonio-o-o.

Disclosure: Mark provided us a copy of the book for this review. It is available for purchase on Amazon.

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