Monday 24 September 2018

Chelsea to consider new style of manager with Antonio Conte's replacement

Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters
Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

Roman Abramovich is being urged to consider a change of direction as Chelsea weigh up how best to replace head coach Antonio Conte.

While Chelsea have remained silent on his future, Conte is expected to leave the club at the end of the season and owner Abramovich and his advisers have been besieged by suggestions for the Italian’s successor.

Many of Europe’s leading managerial names, such as Luis Enrique, Max Allegri, Maurizzo Sarri and Leonardo Jardim have been put forward to Chelsea, and Abramovich is most likely to pick from that list. There is also the fall-back of asking Carlo Ancelotti to return.

But Telegraph Sport understands that some close allies of Abramovich have also suggested a new approach that would see Chelsea try to find the next big thing, rather than going for a proven winner or star name.

Mauricio Pochettino would be the Blues’ ideal choice to replace Conte, but there is recognition there is little chance of prising the Argentine away from Tottenham Hotspur this summer.

The admiration for Pochettino has sparked an effort by individuals close to Chelsea to try to identify the most promising coaches who have the potential to become the very best.

That has thrown up names such as Roma’s Eusebio Di Francesco, Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann and even Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner.

While it is rated unlikely Chelsea would source their next manager from Huddersfield, there is a feeling they need to take a new route to the top and one way could be to appoint a fresh, dynamic coach who is committed to modern, attractive football and is willing to promote young players.

Chelsea can no longer outspend their rivals, as Conte has found out, or have a squad of players fully committed to or capable of immediately making the Blues winners again.

On the one and only previous occasion Abramovich tried something different it backfired spectacularly, as Andre Villas-Boas lasted only nine months.

The Portuguese came in with a real desire to promote Chelsea’s young players and set about implementing a long-term strategy, but the dressing-room, at that time, proved too powerful for him.

Things are different now, however. There are not the characters of Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to rule the dressing-room and pick up the phone to Abramovich.

To some degree that leaves Chelsea in a tougher position than in the past. Terry and co were quickly able to regroup under a new manager, but the current squad look like a collection of players that need motivating and careful direction.

But the fact Abramovich talks to his head coach, rather than the players, when he visits Cobham these days should provide Conte’s successor with encouragement that it is his opinions that will be listened to.

Just over two years ago, Chelsea spoke with Eddie Howe as they considered how best to replace Jose Mourinho and whether or not it was time for a change of approach.

In the end, Abramovich went for tried and tested. He is naturally drawn to winners and chose Conte ahead of Jorge Sampaoli, believing the Italian could pick up where Mourinho had left off after clinching the title, before the customary third-season meltdown.

The theory worked and Conte moulded Chelsea back into champions, but a familiar scenario is now playing out. With Conte set to leave, does Abramovich go back to the start of what has become a two-to-three-year cycle by going for another big name or does he commit to a new direction?

Howe was considered last time out because Chelsea were aware that the majority of the managers they had been hiring fulfilled Abramovich’s demand to win, but did not necessarily fit the overall direction the club wanted to follow.

The key is whether or not Abramovich is prepared to take a risk and accept that his next appointment may need more time to deliver success. He could decide that Enrique and Jardim fit both his briefs, in that they have both achieved great success but are young enough to adapt their approaches and start a new project.

Much could also depend on which European competition Chelsea qualify for. They can keep their slim Champions League hopes alive by beating seventh-placed Burnley on Thursday night, but a first full Europa League campaign would require a bigger squad and potentially less youngsters loaned out.

What happens at their rivals across Europe will also impact Chelsea. Paris Saint-Germain are speaking to Thomas Tuchel, whose volatile nature would represent a risk for the Blues, while a change at Real Madrid would free up Zinedine Zidane.

 

Telegraph.co.uk

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