Antonio Conte was asked to give himself a nickname in his very first press conference with Chelsea, much like a self-proclaimed Special One in the past.
The humble Italian knew that you don’t choose your own nicknames, they have to be bestowed upon you. He said: “I hope that, during the season, I’ll leave you this opportunity to find a new name for me.”
Conte led Chelsea to a victory in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup over Manchester United and our former boss José Mourinho. While many stories could have been talked about, the media focused on comments made by the former Chelsea manager.
“Until they have a manager who wins four titles, I am number one,” Mourinho said. “Judas is number one.”
The Portuguese coach was always excellent at deflecting attention from the results and player performance to himself. He flexed that ability after the loss to his former club and paramour. Chelsea fans were livid, telling Mourinho that he’s not special anymore.
Mourinho should be respected for everything he achieved during his two stints with the Blues, but Chelsea stories should focus on the current manager and the wonderful season he’s been having. Conte’s contributions to the club needs to be recognized without being shadowed by past managers.
Top of the league; We’re having a laugh
Chelsea ran away with the Premier League title during the 2014–15 season, but the team dragged its feet during the second half. The team worked hard to win, and the fatigue reared its ugly head in the following season with a disappointing 10th place finish.
Life has been great for Chelsea at the top of the table with Conte at the helm, racing toward their fifth Premier League crown. And they are doing it in such dominating fashion.
This is a result of Conte’s change in philosophy and injection of passion at Stamford Bridge. A simple change in formation changed for the fortunes of the club, but a change driven by the fiery Italian who celebrates his team’s goals like he scored them himself.
In an interview with Chelsea TV, Gigi Salmon asked David Luiz whether that in-game passion is also seen during training at Cobham. Luiz replied “In training, on the pitch, when you want to eat, everywhere. I say keep calm boss. Enjoy a bit, just a bit.”
Conte doesn’t only want to share his passion to his players, but to the Stamford Bridge faithful as well. “I have great passion and I want to transfer my passion to my players, but also to my fans,” Conte said. “We work during the week to reach our target, our victory, and when this doesn’t happen, I don’t like it. I find with all my strength to reach victory with my players.”
Gone are the butt-clenching late victories that have fans sighing in relief on the edge of their seats. Gone also are the upsets that leave everyone bewildered at Chelsea dropping points. Instead, the West London club are calmly dismantling defences while creating a fortress of their own. Chelsea aren’t parking the bus anymore, they’re moving forward with a tank, and the crowd at Stamford Bridge are louder than ever singing Antonio’s name.
Ohana means family; nobody gets left behind or forgotten
Managers tend to have their favourite players to lean on, and by doing so they alienate others. Chelsea players that left due to lack of playing time include Juan Mata, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, and even David Luiz himself. Some players are deemed as surplus to requirements, and aren’t given a chance at cracking the starting XI.
In the past, Victor Moses was one of those outcasts. The Nigerian winger joined Chelsea in the 2012–13 season, but was subsequently loaned out to Liverpool, Stoke City, and West Ham United for the next three seasons, even if he impressed during the preseason tours.
Expectations were the same going into this current season; which club will Moses be loaned to?
Instead, Conte gave Moses a chance, and created a role for him as the right wingback in the 3-4-3 formation.
This idea of everybody having an important role at the club stretches to all the staff. For Christmas, Conte gave a gift to every staff member at Cobham, including cleaners, chefs, administrators, and everyone else who worked there. Conte gave each person a bottle of Barolo or Prosecco that he picked, along with written notes for each individual. His passion also showed in each note when he quoted Hannibal by writing, “We will either find a way, or we will make one.”
This sense of camaraderie has saved Chelsea from last season’s toxic environment that split the dressing room. This team spirit was something that Conte sought to build. “If you want to win something during the season it’s important to create this unity in the team,” he said.
It can be argued that there are still some forgotten individuals. £31.5 million summer signing Michy Batshuayi and other youth academy graduates have seen little action. However, Conte will have his chance to include everyone with a packed fixture list next season. Hopefully nobody will get left behind.
A new era
The current Manchester United manager truly said it best when he spoke about Frank Lampard playing for Manchester City. “When he decided to go to a director competitor to Chelsea, then love stories are over,” Mourinho said. The same can now be said for our former boss.
I reiterate that it’s important to respect what José has done, but Chelsea are moving into an exciting new era. Conte has shaped the club into an exciting team to watch. The tactics are often imitated, but hardly duplicated by other clubs. He has even managed to change the formation of England national team, who copied our 3-4-3 system against Germany on Wednesday.
“This is a new chapter for my life, for my career, for me, and for my family,” Conte said. The same can be said for the club.
It is always nice to look back at what was achieved in the past. However, the view when you look forward is quite wonderful, and definitely something Chelsea fans don’t want to miss.