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Conte Showing Who’s Boss At Chelsea

 • by Thomas McIlroy
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“When Antonio Conte speaks, his words assault you,” Andrea Pirlo wrote in his autobiography.

“They crash through the doors of your mind, often quite violently and settle deep within you.”

Those words were quoted many times before the Italian’s arrival at Chelsea in the summer.

As Pirlo also alluded to, he proved himself as a great coach, leading the Blues to Premier League victory, but there was little sign of the aggressive, stroppy Conte alluded to by many before his arrival.

He seemed light-hearted, making light of the apparent fall out with Diego Costa (we now know this was a much bigger situation than he made out at the time) and eating cake with journalists in post-match press conferences.

Yes, there was talk of Chelsea players being frustrated at first by his double sessions and repetitive work on the training pitch, but once that started to pay off, they were all behind him.

A change in scenery – a change in character?

He famously had a row with Walter Mazzarri while both were working in Serie A over formations.

In November 2011 the now Chelsea boss infuriated the then Napoli boss with a tactical tweak when his Juventus side travelled to face them.


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Mazzarri was known for employing a well-drilled 3-5-2 system, but with minimal pressing in the opponents’ half, and when the two teams met in Naples, Conte shocked everyone by mirroring his hosts’ formation.

Before, the Juventus boss had favoured his trusty 4-2-4, but sensing the Napoli game would be key to the title race, he switched to three at the back.

The match ended in a 3-3 draw, with the Bianconeri coming from two goals down, and from then on, he carried on with that formation as his side won the title.

Conte has even admitted that he tried to mirror Napoli, which Mazzarri didn’t take as a compliment.

It became a grudge match, with neither exchanging a word since 2011, but often speaking about each other.

Conte declined to speak to the press before Juventus’ meeting with Mazzarri’s new side Inter in February 2014.

That led the Inter boss to say: “I’d never do something like that. I never have done.”

The subject irritated Conte, who then insisted on pointing out the subtle differences in his 3-5-2 to Mazzarri’s.

Yet when the two met when Chelsea and Watford played each other last season, it seemed a lot more pleasant, as if Conte had left all the drama behind him.

In control

There is no doubt that the Chelsea boss always wants control.

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As he writes in his autobiography, the first club president to find that out was Arezzo’s Piero Mancini, who he told: “I make all the decisions from now on, or I will leave today.”

That’s a view shared by Siena sporting director Giorgio Perinetti, who employed Conte as a No.2 to Luigi de Canio.

Perinetti told FourFourTwo: “You cannot ask Conte to not be Conte. Once you have chosen Conte then you have to keep supporting him. You can’t compromise, you just need to follow him because all of his ideas are brilliant.”

And Chelsea found that out this summer when he flirted with leaving fate club after a fantastic first season at Stamford Bridge.

There was talk he was unhappy with the clubs lack of summer signings until the arrivals of Antonio Rüdiger, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Álvaro Morata.

There was also reportedly contention between him and Michael Emenalo over who he should sign, but the arrivals so far do feel like Conte signings, but we’ll have to wait and see until the transfer window closes if he gets the other three or four players he feels his squad needs.

And his quotes this week about youngsters, given the departures of Nathan Aké, Nathaniel Chalobah and Dominic Solanke also really give the feel that it’s Conte’s way or the highway at Stamford Bridge now.

“Sometimes I think the young players lose their patience very quickly – a lot of time because of parents or the people around them. I think the advisors aren’t right,” he said.

“The first thing they should have is good patience. Trust the club. Then work very hard to know that to play at this level you must be stronger – and very good.

“Sometimes, young players think they can play easily in the first team, but that’s not true. I have to pick 11 players. Not only me, every coach.”

Chelsea linked to

It feels like Conte has properly committed to Chelsea now after his summer dalliance with returning to Italy.

His family are moving over to London and his new contract – albeit not an extension – underlined his desire to stay at the club.

Previously at Stamford Bridge, it’s felt that perhaps players are bigger than the manager, but with Conte showing Costa the door, it’s clear who the head honcho is now.

It may seem like a dictatorship, but isn’t that what Sir Alex Ferguson was like at Manchester United?

And that’s what Conte’s like too, it’s his style of winning.

It’s what he was like at Juventus, his resignation at the time appeared to be linked to the sale of Arturo Vidal against his wishes.

But while everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet in Turin, he won three league titles in a row.

And if he gets everyone at Chelsea working the Conte way, they’ll be hoping for title No.2 and No.3 under the Italian by 2019.

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