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When Conte Managed Chelsea (Part One)

Antonio Conte is back in the Premier League, having been appointed as the new manager oof Spurs, in succession to Nuno Espirito Santo who was sacked after just 17 games in charge of the North London side.

He is being paid a salary reported to be in excess of £13 million, third behind Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp and has been tasked with bringing success to a club that has not lifted a trophy since 2008.

How he gets on will be watched with interest, not least by Chelsea fans. He took charge of the club in 2016, led them to league success in his first season, narrowly missing out on the double, and the following year they won the FA Cup.

Yet it all went quickly wrong after that, and he was sacked to be replaced by Mauricio Sarri. The compensation case dragged on for months, and Chelsea accounts later revealed that the club had spent nearly £27 million paying him off, and in legal fees.

So, what exactly went right – and wrong – for Conte at Stamford Bridge?

When Conte was appointed in April 2016 (he did not accept the job until the summer), the club was a at a low ebb. The second coming of Jose Mourinho had led to the sacking of the Portuguese, and Guus Hiddink returned to the club for a second time in an interim capacity, although they could only finish tenth in the Premier League that year.

Conte, having achieved immense success with Juventus, where he had won three successive league titles, had just enjoyed a successful spell in charge of the national team where, despite inheriting a mediocre squad, took them to the quarter-finals of the 2016 Euros, losing to reigning world champions Germany in a penalty shoot-out.

Conte had an immediate impact at Stamford Bridge, placing a great emphasis on physical fitness and bringing his renowned man management and motivational skills to bear. A renowned tough task master he always demanded 100% of his players,, often barking at players throughout the course of a match.

Inevitably, in the new performance driven culture he created at Stamford Bride, some hated it, whilst others thrived.

One such player at Chelsea was Victor Moses, who, as a winger, had struggled for game time at the club, and had enjoyed a succession of loan moves to Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham, until Conte arrived and converted him to a wing back. For two years he played the best football of his career under the Italian, and it is no coincidence that the decline in his form can be traced to when Conte was dismissed.

Never a man afraid to spend other people’s money, Chelsea strengthened his squad by signing N’Golo Kante, who had just won the league with Leicester City, David Luiz, back for a second spell at the club, and Marcos Alonso. He was ready for his first season in the Premier League.

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