Monday 23 July 2018

Antonio Conte's in-tray at Chelsea

Rejuvenating Eden Hazard (pictured) will be one of Antonio Conte's early tasks after taking over at Chelsea
Rejuvenating Eden Hazard (pictured) will be one of Antonio Conte's early tasks after taking over at Chelsea

Antonio Conte was on Monday named Chelsea manager on a three-year contract.

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 the current Chelsea starting XI and cases can be made for others. The signings of Radamel Falcao, Papy Djilobodji, Alexandre Pato, Baba Rahman and others have done 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 next term, it may be difficult to attract the desired players - and keep their existing talent.


John Terry announced in January he would be leaving Chelsea in the summer, although the club maintain there is the possibility of a contract extension being offered. The 35-year-old captain has made 700 appearances for the Blues and his departure would undoubtedly create a hole. But he has to go some time. Whether it is now or in the near future, Conte must fill the void in defence and in leadership.


Eden Hazard was Chelsea's leading performer in the 2014/15 Capital One Cup and Premier League successes, but his performance levels have dropped alarmingly this term. A long-standing hip problem provides 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.


Terry was the most recent, home-grown graduate to make a sustained first-team impact from the academy, 18 years ago. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been in the first-team squad this season, but has had limited opportunities. Dominic Solanke, Lewis Baker and Izzy Brown are among those out on loan 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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