Antonio Conte’s never settled. Maybe if he’d met someone his own age or tried to get out more? He could’ve joined a badminton club – works for lots of people, bit of exercise with a social life attached, it could’ve made all the difference. But it’s not looking good. And of course he had to put up with the Russian oligarch – they’re always tricky. I had to get rid of mine, always banging on about changing energy provider... I’d just had enough in the end, he had to go.
So it looks like Tony will be heading back to the land of his fathers, perhaps sooner rather than later unless he stops losing to teams like Watford and Bournemouth. I mean no disrespect to those teams - in fact ever since I predicted Bournemouth for the drop they’ve gone unbeaten in seven games, which just goes to show how much I know about football.
However, there are three things your average Russian oligarch won’t put up with – cheap boats, plain women and losing to teams like Watford and Bournemouth, so Carlo Ancelotti must be thinking long and hard right now just how serious he was about taking that year off. And if it does come to the end of the line for Antonio, it’ll be a bit sad – his manic celebrations on the touchline last year were a feature of the season, and his open warfare with Jose was always fun to tune into.
Which makes Chelsea’s next game - at Old Trafford - one to really look forward to. Let’s hope he can hold on for that and not let it be the game that seals his fate. The one after that, however, is away to Man City – and that probably will kill him off. Not a great time for that particular set of fixtures, methinks.
It doesn’t take a genius to think that it was the Champions League commitments that maybe contributed to his season-long demeanour, especially with what he considered an under strength squad. However, why is it that teams spend one season moaning about the pressure of reaching the Champions League, only to do so, and then spend the next season complaining about fixture congestion and weak squads?
Now, didn’t it always used to be the case that managers never openly criticised their players in public? Sort of a ‘what goes on, on the pitch stays in the dressing room’ type thing. That doesn’t seem to be the case any more – Jose regularly has a pop at his team, (btw - doesn’t Phil Jones look a bit like Mr Incredible?) and now Big Sam has held nothing back in slagging off his Everton lot.
Hardly surprising given their recent performances - which Sam has labelled ‘crap’ (I think it’s a technical term), and which he clarified by coming out with:
I’m very angry about the players performing at that level.
I don’t understand it. From a managerial point of view, doesn’t coming out with these sorts of statements say as much about you and your ability to manage as it does about the players and their ability to play? Either you’re not coaching them adequately, or, as seems to be implied in this case, they’re just not listening to you, which speaks volumes about your ability as a manager.
Personally I think he’s being punished by the Gods for not coming back in with an £18 million bid for Lamine Kone in last month’s transfer window, so he’ll just have to suck it up as far as I’m concerned.
But he hadn’t finished - he then went on:
So, let’s write this season off as quick as we can by staying in the Premier League and then sort it out for the start of next season.
So you start by admitting your failings as a manager to the wider world, and then you announce to your ambitious owner and employer that you’ve pretty much given up for the rest of the season? This wouldn’t be the first time in recent history that Sam’s ego has got him into trouble, but maybe he should remember that:
(A); he wasn’t first choice for the job. The guy that was first choice is now sitting at home twiddling his extremities and wondering if he may be working for Chelsea any time soon (he won’t, but we can all dream).
(B); his ambitious owner has forked out over £150 million on the team this season which Sam has just admitted he can’t handle and has effectively given up on. Thereby implying that come the summer he’ll ship most of them out and expect more money on the table to replace them – (by which time Kone’s price will have gone up to £25 million, btw).
(C); how is Theo Walcott supposed to react to all this? I watched him in his first game and he was like a puppy with a fluffy toy, and he’s now been told he’s got nothing to look forward to for the rest of the season. Hell, he could have had that at by staying at Arsenal and he wouldn’t have had to live in Liverpool to do so.
There were some weird things on the TV this week. On Wednesday’s Match of the Day, Olivier Giroud was on the bench for Chelsea against Bournemouth. Then, in the next game, Arsenal against Swansea – he was on the bench for Arsenal. What’s all that about?
Despite Chelsea’s current problems, Giroud is probably looking forward to his new club, and striking up a partnership with Ross Barkley. He probably thinks it’ll be just like playing with Sanchez - Pablo Sanchez from the Mexican Sunday leagues.
The Cyril Regis celebration at West Brom’s game was good to see, and included Ron Atkinson, which reminded me of one of the great quotes from football past. When Atkinson was Manchester United one of his players was badly injured in a collision. After examining him on the pitch, the club doctor approached Ron and said that the player was suffering from concussion and didn’t know he was. Without batting an eye, Atkinson said:
Tell him he’s Pele and put him back on.
Those were the days.