Sooner or later, every Chelsea manager has his “bad moment”, when it all goes sour and his fate is sealed. For some, this spells immediate doom. Mourinho, both times, Di Matteo, Scolari, Villa-Boas all were punted through the moon door. Others, depending largely on circumstance, get to live until the final day of the season. Ancelotti, who gave it the name “bad moment” was given until the final match (but not a minute longer) and now it very much looks like Conte will be granted the same ... honor? Let’s go with treatment.
A run that has seen Chelsea pick up just 4 points from 15 and collect just 5 wins from 20 matches in all competitions rumbled on unabashed Sunday, when Chicharito’s fateful equalizer (was there ever any doubt he’d score?) left everyone frustrated, sad, or angry once more at Stamford Bridge. This is what we do now; this is what we’ve done all season. It’s a run that has surely sealed Conte’s fate (assuming it wasn’t already sealed long before), with Chelsea failing to meet the minimum standard expectations of a top-four finish.
At this point, everyone is expecting the hammer to fall, but despite a minor Twitter frenzy on Monday, that proverbial hammer is showing Chelsea-levels of finishing clear cut opportunities. Perhaps that’s appropriate, given Chelsea’s own lack of conviction in front of goal for much of the season.
Those Twitter rumors were quickly debunked on Monday, with further reports later emerging that there are no plans to sack Conte before the end of the season, presumably regardless of what does or doesn’t happen on the pitch. Here’s one of the latest in that vein from The Times, who use the usual financial motivation to support that claim — i.e. the club want to avoid having to pay the severance by letting Conte take another job, though surely that’s a waiting game that Conte, if he’s truly hell-bent on collecting, can easily wait out. I don’t think that’s Conte’s main motivation at all, but the narrative is strong.
If we are to take Conte at his word, his own motivation is to fix things. Again. He is, after all, a fixer. Will he get a second chance to apply a more permanent fix than last season? Unlikely, but until the hammer falls, we can maintain hope.
As far as Chelsea themselves are concerned, sacking Conte now would be truly a petty and useless gesture. The league’s gone, the Champions League’s gone, the top-four is only mathematically alive and you might have to do some extreme seventh order differentials to make it work. No one’s making any decisions based on Europa League qualifications, and perhaps we can maintain hope that the squad will pull together, and send the coach off on a good note with an FA Cup trophy.