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Friday 23 February 2018

Antonio Conte's in tray at Chelsea

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

Antonio Conte will on Thursday be unveiled as Chelsea head coach after agreeing a three-year contract in April.

Here Press Association Sport's Matt McGeehan looks at the Italian's first tasks at Stamford Bridge.


Chelsea's calamitous season has led for calls for wholesale changes, but it is clear there can be no quick solution to the problems. Patience - something rarely seen under Roman Abramovich's ownership - is required now. Jose Mourinho wanted to build a dynasty, but the "palpable discord" between manager and players, to use technical director Michael Emenalo's words, was a fracture in relations which could not be repaired. Conte must be given time to build a team.


Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, David Luiz, Ryan Bertrand and Petr Cech are some of the players sold who would improve last season's starting XI and cases can be made for others. Recent signings - Radamel Falcao, for example - did little to redress the balance. The challenge is Chelsea may have to overhaul the team twice in the next two summers as, without Champions League football, it may be difficult to attract the desired players. So far, they seem to have managed to persuade Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa and co to stay.


John Terry in May signed another one-year contract extension - his third - after six months of uncertainty. Terry, at 35, cannot continue forever and Conte must fill the void in defence and leadership. There is also the question of power and respect. Conte will have to acknowledge Terry's considerable influence with supporters and role in the club's history, while Terry must accept that his best days are behind him.


Eden Hazard was Chelsea's leading performer in the 2014-15 Capital One Cup and Premier League successes, but his performance levels dropped alarmingly last term. A long-standing hip problem provided part of the explanation, but, even prior to that flaring up, the Belgium playmaker did not show signs of improving on his successful campaign. He is under contract until 2020 and will not be sold - his transfer value must be half what it was last summer - so Conte must find a way of rejuvenating Hazard. There were signs of a return to form with Belgium at Euro 2016.


Terry was the most recent, homegrown graduate to make a sustained first-team impact from the academy, 18 years ago. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been in the first-team squad, but has had limited opportunities. Dominic Solanke, Lewis Baker and Izzy Brown are among those out who should be given the chance to realise their undoubted potential. Chelsea's developmental model could be reconfigured to place less emphasis on loans and enhance first-team chances.

Press Association

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