Chelsea Football Club and the Conte Conundrum
What could the future possibly hold for Chelsea?
Burnley FC 2-3 Chelsea.
Crystal Palace 2-1 Chelsea.
Bournemouth 3-0 Chelsea.
Watford 4-1 Chelsea.
Newcastle 3-0 Chelsea.
Antonio Conte's second season in charge at SW6 saw a disastrous title defence from the Blues, ending the season in fifth, a massive 30 points behind runaway leaders City, and out of the Champions League for the second time in three years.
One would not be mistaken in expecting a summer of change at Chelsea, but what exactly went wrong, and what is to be done about it, is the subject of some debate.
The Italian has never really looked comfortable in his job this season, constantly clashing with the board over transfers and even hinting that the club has failed to "share his ambition."
Although fans vociferously chanted his name during games, damaging defeats to Spurs and City, coupled with woeful performances at Watford and Newcastle have had several questioning his tactical acumen and commitment to the club.
With the FA Cup Final set to be his last game in charge, the Blues will be dealt a further blow by the whopping amount they have to pay, in order to get rid of the incumbent. With Mauricio Sarri set to extend his stay at Naples, the Chelsea job has gone from being irresistible to a subject of taboo, as the Londoners remain no closer to finding a suitable replacement.
Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea hierarchy
If Conte is to be believed, he had no role in the bizarre sale of Nemanja Matic to United, or in the signings of Timoue Bakayoko or the perennially injured Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater.
Hampered by injury and inconsistency, Alvaro Morata has had a real struggle in adapting to the Premier League, often letting his team down through his poor finishing and failure to hold-up play.
With Eden Hazard giving his clearest indication yet that he will wait for "new players to arrive" before signing the new contract, it is imperative that the Russian oligarch and his staff make an immediate and positive impact in the transfer market.
With no Champions League football and a tight budget, it is up to Marina Granovskaia to move for players who can adapt quickly to the Premier League, and support the likes of Hazard and Willian in attack.
Time for the Academy boys to shine
With the club set to hand out bumper contracts to the likes of Hazard and Courtois, the academy players may get their best chance yet of proving their mettle on the biggest stage of all. Charly Musonda, Hudson-Odoi, Ethan Ampadu and co. must establish themselves as worthy first-team backups, considering the immense potential they have.
With successful seasons in the Premier League for Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham, the two young blues would look to impress the manager during pre-season to contend for a spot in the first team instead of being shipped out on loan.
The key to the Blues' possible resurgence lies not only in the players they bring in but also in ensuring that the manager has a solid foundation to work with. It is absolutely essential that the seniors like Dave, Eden, Cahill and Fabregas step up to the challenge and make the Blues a force to be reckoned with, yet again.
As for the new manager, if they decide to get a new one, he will have to be aware of how the club is run, and which decisions are his to make, else the Pensioners risk dropping further down the order.