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Sacking Antonio Conte marks a tonal shift for Chelsea

Thursday 12th July 2018

So, the inevitable has happened, Chelsea have sacked Antonio Conte; adding him to the long list of managers Roman Abramovich has fallen out of love with.

Conte may have delivered the title in his first season, but last year proved to be a disaster, as his side finished fifth in the table and a whopping 30 points behind champions Manchester City.

The Italian’s reign has followed the boom and bust cycle that has become the norm at Stamford Bridge and now a new man will come in and start it again.

Except, this time things appear to be changing. Chelsea have acknowledged their problem and are now seeking to change. A tonal shift is seemingly underway, starting on the pitch.

Conte’s first season was built on his impressive work on the defence, his side keeping 16 clean sheets across the campaign and conceding more than one goal in 11 of their games.

That kind of football is now out-dated in the modern game. It can bring success on occasion but not long-term. Attacking is now the way to go in both Europe and the Premier League.

Manchester City proved it in England, while the fact 21 more goals were scored in the Champions League last season compared to the year before is evidence of it happening there.

Chelsea needed to change to keep pace and sacking Conte was the first step. Appointing an attacking coach is the next one and it appears that man will be Maurizio Sarri. If it is, it's indeed a move that makes perfect sense.

Sarri shone with Napoli last season, running Juventus extremely close in the best Serie A title race for many years.

In his three seasons in charge of I Ciucciarelli, his side plundered 251 goals league goals in total, 13 more than Juve in the same period.

Unlike Conte, Sarri has no love for cynical, defensive side of the game and has openly admitted as much. He would bring the exciting, attacking philosophy that Abramovich has always wanted for his club.

“If I saw my team defending and counter-attacking after 30 minutes, I would get up and return to the bank because I would not be having fun." - Maurizio Sarri

Not that Conte’s sacking is just a desire from Chelsea to change how they operate on the pitch. It also demonstrates a wish to adapt off it too.

When Abramovich first arrived, he took English football by storm, spending the kind of sums that the rest of the league could only dare dream about. Now, though, the financial climate is against him.

The Blues, frankly, cannot afford to keep up with their rivals when it comes to spending power. Change is needed for them to do so and that was at the heart of the dispute with Conte.

He wanted to spend big sums of money and overhaul the squad but instead was given signings such as Ross Barkley, Antonio Rudiger and Emerson Palmieri.

These are players to be developed, worked on by the coach and turned into star men. The same can be said of the likes of Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi and Tiemoue Bakayoko. Chelsea now want value for money. Conte was not the man to deliver it, Sarri might be.

He is a coach who prefers to make the best of what he has than spend big on improving his squad. He does his work on the training pitch rather than the transfer table.

At Napoli he turned several players deemed not good enough into world stars, developing them through hard work on the training pitch. He averaged £60m a season in transfer fees and constructed his starting XI for a meagre £74m.

He is also a manager who has shown a willingness to give youth a chance, something many Chelsea managers have failed to do. They have a youth setup that's up there amongst the best in the country, yet fail to take advantage of it. Time has come for that to change.

This is not to say Chelsea won’t spend. A £50million move for Jorginho is reportedly on the cards while Daniele Rugani and Aleksandr Golovin are also rumoured targets. They will not spend as they have in the past, though. The focus will be on development.

Of course, there are other factors that have caused Conte’s sacking. The Italian fell out with his squad last season as a result of his constant belittling. He's been at odds with Abramovich, too. The football has also been less than satisfactory. His departure is not just a club and manager separating but also a tonal shift for Chelsea as an entity.

They not only want to change to their style but also how they operate on a financial level. Both are necessary for their future prospects, so was sacking Conte. Bringing in Sarri will be the first step on the new road.

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Sean Lunt

Football journalist working in the North West mainly covering Everton and Liverpool but with musings on anything football related. 

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