Last weekend’s defeat to Burnley was surprising in so far as the defending champions went three goals down at home to a side with one of the smallest budgets in the league on the opening day of the season.
On the other hand, it wasn’t too surprising when you consider some of the mood music that’s been coming out of Stamford Bridge, and Antonio Conte in particular, of late. The Italian hasn’t been shy in telling everyone about how unhappy he is with their spending this summer, even if they have spent just under £130 million so far, how he is not happy with the squad he has at his disposal (even if most of them won the league last year at a canter).
He wasn’t particularly happy with the sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United (even if he has brought in a replacement in Tiemoue Bakayoko who is quite a few years younger).
Many will have thought back to two seasons ago to Chelsea’s last title defence and the opening day farce which was their home draw with Swansea City. Unhappy with the signings they had made (Baba Rahman anybody?) Jose Mourinho’s defending champions saw Thibaut Courtois sent off, were sloppy and, to top it off, had the manager criticising Eva Carneiro.
It was an incident that ultimately signalled the start of a downward spiral for the team. There was no clash with the medical staff last week, but instead of that, the manager is now falling out with his leading centre-forward, who is AWOL in Brazil.
A test for Conte and his team
A trip now to Tottenham (if you can call Wembley that) isn’t the most wonderful of prospects for a team that seems as though it could do with some positive news. Spurs were one of the few teams to beat them last year and they showed last week at St. James’ Park that they would seemingly carry on from where they left off last season.
Two defeats from two games looks likely, but Conte can still turn this around. He just has to get on with the job as opposed to complaining about everything not being in his favour right now.
This is still a champion side, and even with their many absences (whether it be for injury, transfer or going on strike reasons), there are still several good players there that they can call on. Players like Courtois, David Luiz, N’Golo Kanté, Marcos Alonso all served him well last year and new signing Alvaro Morata will be a threat.
In the second half last week, even with their numerical disadvantage, Chelsea were much better and showed that that fighting spirit and quality is still there. The manager now has to knuckle down and work with what he has got, and to his credit, that is what he did last season, to great success. If he doesn’t though, then the questions may increase and the downward spiral may continue.
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