A campaign that started with a whimper ended with a full-blown cry of anguish. The 3-0 humiliation at the hands of “The Interim One” could turn out to be Antonio Conte’s last Premier League match for Chelsea. Judging by the performances of most of the first-team, it ought to be the last game for a lot of them too. But in this business, the buck stops with the manager. The Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, who travelled all the way to Newcastle for the game didn’t look too impressed by the diabolical nature of the defeat.
And so, for the last time in the Premier League season of 2017-18, here are the talking points from Chelsea’s loss to Newcastle United.
#1 To Rotate Or Not To Rotate
They were all terrible. If Conte thought a bit of rotation might come in handy before the FA Cup final against Manchester United, he could not have been more wrong. A lot of people cribbed about the Italian manager meddling with a winning formula. But here’s the thing – Conte knows more about the fitness levels of his players than 99.9% of the keyboard warriors out there. So if he thinks Rudiger or Fabregas need to sit out this game, you shut up and let them be benched. Playing three games within such a short span right at the end of the season can take a toll on players and lead to injuries. It’s pretty simple and logical, even though it may appear too difficult to grasp for the average Twitter user. The same people would bawl their eyes out if Conte put out the same teamsheet three games in a row.
#2 Final Conte-down
He may insist that he has a contract for another year, but everyone knows that contracts count for very little in football. Otherwise David Moyes and Alan Pardew would still be in gainful employment at Manchester United and Newcaste United respectively. Almost everyone agrees that Antonio Conte’s time as Chelsea head coach is up. It’s just the small matter of an FA Cup final to negotiate and he’ll get the Louis Van Gaal treatment before he can take a proper look at his medal. The players seemed to know of his fate already and their appalling effort (or lack of it) suggested they’d already deleted Conte’s number from their iPhones.
#3 Not Fit To Wear the Shirt
Dear Ross, please give up the number 8 shirt for next season. Come back when you’ve learnt how to finish from point-blank range and we’ll talk.
#4 Defence Or Disaster?
No marking, not tracking the runner, not clearing the ball properly and failing to judge the speed of the shot on goal. These were just some of the issues with Chelsea’s defence and no amount of touchline gesturing from Conte could have fixed them. If you still think the manager is the problem, write your opinion down on a piece of paper and open it again after 2 years.
#5 Last Chance Saloon
The FA Cup represents Chelsea and Conte’s last chance of a trophy this season. The pitiful showing by most of the players must have given him a selection headache for the final. If the team he puts out plays like they did against Newcastle United, it could be a long afternoon. And I would completely understand if Conte ran on to the pitch, kicked a few arses and ended his Chelsea reign by getting sent to the stands.
That’s just about it for this league season. Let’s hope there’s a light at the end of this tunnel, the FA Cup trophy. Hope is good.