Antonio Conte: The man to fear in the Premier League next season
The upcoming English Premier League will be one hell of a season. The next season of the top-tier of English football will boast a number of world-class managers like Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte to name a few; managers who have won a plethora of league titles between them.
Ever since Mourinho was revealed as the manager of Manchester United, all the limelight has been on him and his rivalry with Wenger and Guardiola. Many have predicted that it will be a rat race between these three managers for the title next season. Antonio Conte certainly has been forgotten by the media and the critics alike, owing to the popularity of these managers. Not much has been said about the manager who revived Juventus and again made them a force to be reckoned with in the football world.
A complete package
The former Italy manager is relatively unknown to football fans outside Italy as compared to other managers at the big clubs, but that doesn’t mean his managerial abilities are less than that of others. Conte is pure box office and a livewire on the sidelines as evident from the Euro. He is a manager who is admired as well as feared by his staff and the players alike. The mere presence of him installs belief and confidence in the team.
The 46-year-old doesn’t shy away from experimenting with formations in order to install a system that gets the best out of all his players. He is known for using the 3-5-2 formation, two wing backs supporting a three man midfield and also providing cover to the three-man defensive line. He has the tactical acumen similar to that of Mourinho, and time and again has shown that he has one of the best tactical minds in world football. The Italian side (termed as the worst in many years) reaching the last eight of the ongoing Euro, and defeating much stronger sides like Spain and Belgium in the process, is just another example of Conte’s tactical intelligence.
Conte also has the ability to forge players into a coherent unit and has a penchant for getting the best out of all his players.
The players in the Italian side were not that good as compared to the other big teams, but they were filled with passion and were willing to put their bodies on the line for their manager. The Italian side was short on talent, but Conte with his hard working methods and imagination forged them into a team that was just a whisker away from upsetting the Germans. A below par Italian side giving such a tough fight to Germany, totally explains the prowess of Conte as a manager.
A born winner
The Italian is a born winner; He won plenty of titles as a player and has added some more to his trophy cabinet as a manager. His managerial career started in 2006, leading Bari to the 2008-09 Serie B title, and Siena to promotion from the same division two years later. The 46-year old’s exploits with Siena earned him a contract with his former side Juventus. Conte was solely responsible for taking Juventus back to the summit of Italian and European football.
When he arrived in Turin in 2011, the Old Lady were a former shadow of themselves. He brought in players such as Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Stephan Lichtsteiner and thereby started an era which would see the club dominate Italian football once again. The 46-year-old won three Serie A title in succession. In his first season, he led the Bianconeri to their 28th and first league title in 9 years, with the club finishing the season unbeaten; The first Italian club to do so in the 38 game format. At the end of the 2013-14 season, Conte won his third Serie A title in a row with a record 102 points and 33 wins, finishing 17 points ahead of second-place Roma. During his three seasons as Juventus manager, he won the Panchina d’Oro for each one, for best Serie A coach of the season.
After a falling-out with Juve’s upper management over player transfers, he quit his post and later signed a contract with the national team despite attracting interest from some of the big European clubs. Conte took charge of Italy in August 2014 and led them to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016. Under his tutelage, Italy finished top of the group (Euro 2016) for the first time in a major tournament since the 2006 World cup. The Italian’s first and only competitive loss with Italy was the recent 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in the final group game of the Euro.
In the pre-quarterfinal, his side produced a tactical masterclass and eliminated three-time European champions Spain out of the tournament. Conte’s stint with the national team ended with the Azzurri’s quarterfinal loss to Germany, and now he is all set to take the charge of former English champions, Chelsea.
What he will bring to Chelsea
Chelsea need someone who can bring back the winning atmosphere to the dressing room, and they have secured the services of a coach who definitely knows how to win at the highest level. The Italian managed Juventus for 151 games and lost just 15 of them, possessing a 67.55 win percentage. The situation which Conte faces at Chelsea next season is quite similar to what he faced at Juventus in his first season and going by what he did at Turin, the Italian certainly can do wonders with the Blues.
Conte’s teams are known for their defensive solidity, something which Chelsea need more than ever, after conceding a total of 53 goals in the Premier League last season. The Blues lost a record 12 games and were able to keep just 9 clean sheets in the 38 matches played.
Conte also has the ability to forge raw talents into world class players. For instance, When Paul Pogba arrived at Juventus from Manchester United in 2012, he was just a raw talent, possessing the potential to become one of the best midfielders of his generation. It was Conte who took him under his wing, furnished his talent and made him the lethal midfielder he is today. The Italian manager showed immense belief in a 19-year-old and gave him the freedom to play his natural game. Conte played a major role in unleashing the abilities of Pogba and made him one of the most sought-after players in Europe.
He can do the same with Chelsea’s plethora of academy talents. Chelsea is a club which has not successfully transformed academy talents into prominent first team players.
It would be harsh to see fine talents like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Dominic Solanke, and many others to go down the same path as other Chelsea academy products have in the recent years.
One of the reasons why Chelsea had a disastrous 15/16 season was the form of their star player Eden Hazard. The Belgian couldn’t repeat the magic of 14/15 season and was highly criticized. Conte, who was able to get the best out of Pirlo (that too in his twilight years), will help the misfiring Belgian to find back his form and reach his true potential. Apart from Hazard, Conte will look to re-ignite the footballing prowess of Oscar, a player whose form has dipped drastically over the last two years. He has not yet reached the level he was expected to reach, and under the watchdog of Conte, he can prove why he was tipped as Kaka’s successor in the Brazil national team.
Diego Costa is the perfect Conte striker, good in the air, possessing a powerful shot and a nuisance for the opponent’s defenders. He gives everything to get his team winning and has no shortage of passion, something which Conte absolutely admires and expects from all his players. Costa will be looking to get back to his goal scoring exploits under the guidance of Conte. Juan Cuadrado, a player said to be extremely admired by Conte, will hope to finally kick-start his career in West London. On the whole, the Italian will foster great team spirit and will bring the squad together as one coherent unit, as Chelsea looks to avoid another disastrous season.
Antonio Conte has literally given everything for the teams he has managed so far. He has the right amount of passion suited for the Premier League and with charisma similar to that of Mourinho, the Italian can become a fan favorite at Stamford bridge. Conte will be the fifth Italian manager to take charge of the former English Champions and will be looking to emulate another Italian counterpart Carlo Ancelotti in his first season, and take Chelsea back to the pinnacle of English football.