People around the country must have done a double take at seeing a number one next to the home team’s name when checking the early scores in the 3 o’clock kickoffs. After seven games in the Premier League, Crystal Palace had failed to find the back of the net. Against Chelsea, they managed to break their duck through Yohan Cabaye who was soon (at least by their current standards) joined by Wilfried Zaha in the ‘goals scored’ column.
What was perhaps even more unbelievable was the fact that their opponents, the defending Premier League champions, went on to lose the game against a side who had the worst record in the major European leagues. In some ways, though, it wasn’t too surprising. When you consider how Chelsea have been playing at times this season, it’s not as if this result has come entirely out of the blue, as it were. After only eight games, they are now nine points behind Manchester City and seven behind Manchester United. The dream of winning back-to-back titles has never seemed less realistic.
The Blame Game
For the most part, Antonio Conte has pinned the blame on the weakness of his squad depth, saying that, with the amount of players that he has at his disposal, he can’t possibly compete on four fronts.
This is certain true when you factor into the equation Chelsea’s injury list at the moment: Alvaro Morata, Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kanté all missing. By contrast, Chelsea only had two competitions to focus on last season. Now, with European football thrown into the mix, Conte has to rotate his squad carefully and he’s not too happy with what he’s got to work with.
Conte has knowingly weakened his squad
To some extent though, Conte has helped to create this mess which he finds himself in. Granted, he was happy about the club’s decision to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United in the summer.
However, around ten of the players who did leave in the summer have gone on to other teams in top flights around Europe, each of them players who could be very easily helping to boost Chelsea’s squad numbers. Conte deemed them surplus to requirements or, in the case of Diego Costa, banished him entirely from the squad after a falling out.
In addition, Conte appears to have a clear preference about which players he likes or dislikes with players falling in or out of favour without muchindication why. For example, he no longer seem to have any faith at all in Michy Batshuayi, a fact made all the more bizarre considering that Conte was the man who bought him in last summer at great expense.
Perhaps if Conte hadn’t decided that such a fire sale was necessary, he might be able to deal with the problems that he now has.
Money is no issue
Of course, the Italian hasn’t exactly been short of funds in order to improve his squad. With £300 million spent on incoming transfers since he arrived, it seems unlikely that the Italians complaints will be treated with any real sympathy by his board of directors. This summer alone, Antonio Conte spent around £180 million on transfer. Of those players, however, it is only really Alvaro Morata has hit the ground running, which isn’t the greatest return on investment.
For Antonio Conte to complain about a lack of support in the transfer market, then, seems hard to defend. As a result, Conte shouldn’t expect too much sympathy from Roman Abramovich on this issue.
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