According to a report from Matt Hughes of the Times, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte wants a greater influence on transfer decisions at the club, as well as a bigger squad to work in the forthcoming season. Neither of those demands make much sense, but the report claims Conte made this claim “forcibly” in the latest round of talks.
Why doesn’t this make sense? Well, Conte has demonstrated plenty of ease and perhaps even preference this season and throughout his career for using a core group of players, and he has a reputation for not changing things up when they are working. Outside of choosing between Matić and Fàbregas, and between Pedro and Willian, the first-choice Chelsea lineup has been set in stone since the switch to the 3-4-3. Most of the transfer stories this season have been about players wanting to leave due to playing time (and three have already left precisely because of that with Oscar, Ivanović, and Mikel saying goodbye in January) — a much bigger squad is simply not needed.
A better squad, yes. That is needed. Which where the transfer policy comes in, and Conte’s supposed desire to have greater control in it.
But quite tellingly, Conte already agreed last year to become the “first-team head coach” — Chelsea’s specific use of this language making the new man’s role quite clear — instead of an ell-encompassing manager. This is the model the club has been operating under for some time, but Conte’s appointment made it much clearer than Mourinho’s (when director Emenalo offered to resign his position, even). Conte, who also talks incessantly about his main job being to improve any and all players under his command, is responsible for results on the pitch, the Chelsea Board and directors are responsible for results off of it. Obviously there is communication both ways (something that Conte has also often talked about), but on the business side, the buck stops with ... Buck ... and more pertinently with regards to transfers, with directors Marina Granovskaia and Michael Emenalo.
It may very well be the case that, as the Times claims, Chelsea failed to secure most of Conte’s targets last summer. The report claims that Conte specifically wanted Kanté (and Kanté himself said that he chose to work with Conte over others like Mourinho), but the likes of David Luiz or Marcos Alonso or Michy Batshuayi were not his calls. Of course, Conte may have wanted Koulibaly or whoever else with all his will, but that wouldn’t have lowered their asking prices or made them any more available than they were. It’s not like Chelsea weren’t trying. And much to Conte’s credit, he’s made the most of the squad he’s got, to say the least.
The point is, it’s not that simple. This isn’t FIFA or Football Manager. Conte wanting to have input on transfers is understandable. But he already has that. Any more involvement is a waste of time for him and an inefficient way to do business for Chelsea (and that’s before we get into the idea of “stability” and where normally that lies at a modern football club — hint: it’s not at the head coaching position).
That said, Conte will want to be supported in the market this summer and the Chelsea Board will no doubt do their best to do so — both to replace any big pieces leaving (Costa?) and to add proper depth to the squad with the added Champions League commitments next season. That doesn’t guarantee the acquisition of all the big-money targets being thrown around in the rumor mill (Lukaku, Morata, half of AS Monaco, Bonucci, Koulibaly, the other half of AS Monaco, etc), but surely Conte understands that.
While Chelsea have dropped the ball in similar situations before (notably after each of our last two Premier League titles), one can only hope we’ve learned our lesson.
Meanwhile, it would be nice if the media stopped trying to create discord where very little, if not at all exists. We’ve had plenty of actual discord last season, thank you very much.