By James Nalton, Football Whispers
League title wins are supposed to provide a club with a rare chance to kick on, to solidify their status, and to build from a position of strength.
In the Premier League era two clubs have used league championships to reinforce their status as new powers in the English game, and while in this sense Manchester City are the new kids on the block, Chelsea are the original new Premier League power.
It’s coming up to 15 years since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took control at the club, and during that time they have won five league titles and seen ten different full time managers come and go. A couple of them — Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink — have both enjoyed and endured two spells at Stamford Bridge.
On the face of it the constant changing of managers suggests a lack of stability, but the common theme Abramovich sought when he took over was not one of managerial continuation but one of winning. The aim of playing good, entertaining football while collecting the trophies followed closely behind, but this is something money alone can’t buy, and has proved difficult for the Russian to achieve.
Having won three league titles in a row with Juventus prior to taking charge of the Italian national team, Antonio Conte was hired so that the winning would continue, and he didn’t disappoint.
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He won the title at the first time of asking, and though managers of other Premier League sides rarely win in their first season in charge, it’s happened three times at Chelsea with Carlo Ancelotti and Mourinho both claiming the league at the first opportunity. The only other manager to do so was Manuel Pellegrini at City.
The traditional way is to manage a club for a long time as Sir Alex Ferguson did and as Arsene Wenger is still doing, but the latter is now struggling along as the last bastion of this romantic notion.
And recent events in west London may hint that Chelsea are already beginning to think about their next managerial appointment. Even though transfer deadline day may have passed for the players, the transfer window for managerial changes is always open.
On the back of his league title win Chelsea offered Conte a new deal, but the telling aspect of said contract was that it was merely an improvement in terms and not an extension.
The Italian’s deal still runs until 2019, which appears to give him a maximum of two more seasons at the club. Had they trusted him to build success in the long term they would surely have offered him at least another year on top of his existing terms, but that’s not how Chelsea operate, it seems.
There was also another vote of no confidence at the end of the transfer window as, having failed to secure the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after telling the player he would be deployed at right wing-back, Conte was kept out of any communication with Ross Barkley as the club tried to sign the Everton man.
Oxlade-Chamberlain went to Liverpool, who don’t play a wing-back system, and Barkley changed his mind about his move down south while on the way to the capital.
It’s since been revealed that this lack of communication with his future manager may have been what caused Barkley’s last minute change of heart. Would Barkley have signed having first spoken to Conte? Would Barkley have even improved Chelsea? These questions may never be answered fully, but what the episode did show was a lack of trust from the club in their manager.
While it’s all well and good adopting the modern day methods of short term managerial appointments which contribute to a long term strategy applied from the top down, it’s also important to put trust in the man who’s currently at the helm for as long as he’s there.
Showing such a lack of faith in a manager who has just won the club their sixth league title could backfire even more aggressively than it already has, and though Chelsea don’t need to give Conte a free rein they should at least let him play a part in their processes.
If they don’t then Conte could be replaced even before his contract expires in 2019, and it won’t be through any fault of his own.