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When Conte Managed Chelsea (Part Three)

Following the recent appointment of Antonio Conte as Tottenham Manager, continuing the series which looks back to when he was in charge of another London club, Chelsea.

For Part One, click here; and Part Two here.

Having guided Chelsea to league success the previous season and come close to winning the double, hopes were high for the 2017/2018 season.

However, things went wrong from the start, not helped by a summer transfer window which might serve as a warning for Spurs fans who think that giving Conte a big budget means he will spend it well.

The players bought that summer include Alvaro Morata, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoué Bakayoko, all of whom proved to be expensive flops. Despite paying a record transfer fee for Morata, he scored 24 goals in 72 games for the West London club before he was sent on loan to Atletico Madrid,

Drinkwater and Bakayoko proved even poorer buys. Between the pair of them they have played just 40 games for the club who have been trying to get rid of them almost as soon as they arrived. Bakayoko is currently on loan at AC Milan and Drinkwater with Reading.

Meanwhile, Conte sent a text message to his top goalsorer from the previous season, Diego Costa, telling him that his services were no longer required, with defensive midfielder Nemanja Matić,  key player for the club over the previous few seasons, allowed to join Manchester United for a fee many believed inadequate.

Tensions, never far away between the club hierarchy and manager began to get worse, with Conte believing he had not been backed enough whilst the board wondered where their money had gone.

However, the cracks were papered over and the club began the season well, and, by New Year, sat second in the table, behind eventual champions Manchester City.

But hopes that another title challenge could be mounted evaporated as the club embarked on a poor rum, winning just three out of the next eleven league games, Not only were the results bad, but the football became bad to watch as well, grim, and unimaginative.

And Conte’s body language also sent out a signal that something was wrong, with the all-action figure with boundless energy prowling along the touchline of the previous season, replaced by a sullen, tepid figure who have the impression he wanted to be somewhere else.

The nadir included defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford, before Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, who had not won at Stamford Bridge for over 20 years came and won 3 – 1.

Meanwhile behind the scenes unrest begam to grow, with high profile players like David Luiz not only losing his place in the team, but also in the match day squad itself. Increasingly players begam to brief against Conte, and the results begam to show on the pitch.

With two games left of the league campaign. Chelsea still had hopes of securing a Champions League place for the following season. Instead, they dropped points at home to strugglers Huddersfield Town and then were well beaten away at Newcastle on the last day of the season.

It meant that the club had finished fifth and had to content themselves with Europa League football.

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