Team selection. Tactics. Transfers. Wasted chances. Individual mistakes. Motivation. Luck. Fatigue. Training routines. Fixture congestion. Planetary alignment. Other teams. A butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world. It’s impossible to select just one reason, one rhyme why Chelsea have not only failed to defend last season’s title, but failed to hold on to the top four and turned into an empty shell of a team since the turn of the year.
As with most things Conte preaches, nothing is just one man’s fault or one man’s success. Win together, lose together, celebrate together, commiserate together, be frustrated together.
“It’s difficult now to explain the reasons why we’re struggling in this way this season. There are many reasons...”
“For sure, we made a lot of mistakes this season. When I talk about a lot of mistakes, I involve me, my staff, the players and the club. For sure, we must reflect at the end of the season.”
At the end of the day however, the buck stops with the manager, or head coach to be precise in this case. He is responsible for the team’s results, regardless (usually) of exact details and reasons behind them. Whether we can explain why or how Chelsea got to this point, the fall-guy will almost always be the coach. That’s part of the definition of the job. He is the most replaceable part of the equation — not to mention, Chelsea have shown throughout Abramovich’s tenure that managers can indeed be disposable, changeable, mistreatable without much negative impact on the club’s trophy cabinet; quite the opposite in fact!
Does that mean the end of Conte this summer? Probably. Unless a miracle occurs, Chelsea will finish outside the top four, again, and that’s below minimum expectations. Fault and frustration may be shared, but responsibility starts with the manager, as Conte well knows.
“If we don’t qualify for the Champions League, it means we have to divide the fault, also with the players. We must be ready to share the responsibility. I’m the first to take my responsibility. Then there is the club. Then there is the players. In football, but in every job, it’s right to be in this way. We must be frustrated. Me, my staff, the players and the club, for this season. You start the season with great expectations. Instead we have struggled a lot, for many reasons.”
But all that’s in the future.
For now, we are here, hoping for the turnaround, waiting for three points, a few non-wasted chances, a bit of desire, commitment, determination ... happiness. Will any of that come today? Maybe. Or perhaps in the FA Cup. Either way, as uncertain as the future may be, the immediate task is as clear as ever.
“The only thing we can do is try to finish in the best possible way.”
“Everyone has to find in himself the right desire, the right will to fight. There are six games to go and we have a semi-final in the FA Cup. A possibility then to play in the final for the second year in a row. I know my players. I trust them. I like to think that everyone is giving everything of themselves.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Guardian
Fight, fight, fight. Work, work, work. Is there a better answer?
Perhaps not. Certainly not right now.