It seems like a foregone conclusion that Conte will depart Chelsea sometime between May and August, perhaps as soon as in ten days. As part of his legacy, he’ll leave behind players like Tiémoué Bakayoko and Álvaro Morata, who suffered a fair bit in their first season in England, were lost, but who seem to be finding themselves again. Players whom Conte has helped to improve past their poor form, loss of confidence and injury.
So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Bakayoko would throw his full support behind his coach, but the 23-year-old claims that entire team is behind the manager and the players want him to stay long-term and continue building this relationship.
“As a player, I would be disappointed [if he leaves]. We all like working with the coach and having this relationship in the long-term.
”I’ve been working with him for a year and I’ve progressed a lot under him but it’s really up to the club management, up to him and his entourage but he hasn’t said anything.”
“I don’t really pay attention to [the rumors but] he’s never said that he might leave and he’s always extremely focused on winning, on doing well in the season.”
-Tiémoué Bakayoko; source: Sky
Chelsea and Conte have two games left this season. Bakayoko is likely to play at least one of them, probably both of them. A chance to affirm this focus, these intentions, even if the final outcome for Conte may be unchangeable at this point.
As far as Bakayoko himself, it’s been a topsy-turvy season for the €40 million Monaco man, to whom the burden of replacing Nemanja Matic in the Chelsea midfield fell with full force after Matic decided to leave for Manchester United instead of staying to mentor the youngster as was Conte’s original plan.
Despite still recovering from knee surgery, Bakayoko was then forced into the lineup in just the second match of the season thanks to an injury and availability crisis in midfield, and put together a valiant and decisive outing in our 2-1 win over Tottenham at Wembley. For all the world, it looked like the faith placed in Bakayoko was justified. A month and a half later he played another blinder in our home win against Manchester United. A brilliant song about his partnership with N’Golo Kanté came to be and we were all having a good time with it. Even his stats were looking decent after seven Premier League matches.
Tiemoue Bakayoko vs Nemanja Matic -- Were Chelsea wrong to sell Nemanja Matic over the summer? pic.twitter.com/eakVNpkytt— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) November 5, 2017
But that was it for the highlights. Still carrying the after-effects of that knee injury and struggling to adapt to a new league and a new country, he looked over-matched in the Premier League. Every aspect of his game suffered as his confidence cratered — his passing, his tackling, the speed of his decision-making.
When he earned two yellow cards in just the first half against Watford in February, Conte had seen enough. For the next two months, Bakayoko played but two minutes. The enforced time off was seen as vital not just for his physical but also his emotional health. He needed to get his confidence back.
On April 19th, Conte tried again. At Burnley, Bakayoko didn’t make a major impression, good or bad. But he played the ninety and we won. It was progress. After that came Swansea away and for the first time it was possible to see the improvement. He visibly gained confidence the longer he was on the pitch and by the ninetieth minute he was a different man to the player who had started the game. That was the stepping stone to his stellar display at Liverpool. Suddenly, people believe in Bakayoko again. So much so, in fact, that his absence midweek was a cause for consternation and post-match anger.
Just goes to show, sometimes all it takes is a bit of faith to turn things around.