Why Antonio Conte's Chelsea Appointment Points To A New Premier League Approach To Coaching


It was something that has been known around the game for the past few weeks but, now that the news has finally been confirmed, we’re oddly into something of the unknown for the next three few months.

It’s arguably more difficult than ever to predict how Antonio Conte will do as manager of Chelsea, but that is nothing to do with his own quality. It is abundantly clear he is a supreme coach, probably amongst the best 10 to five in the world, and his record is supreme. The way he rejuvenated Juventus to re-establish them as a modern superclub and a properly competitive side in the Champions League is precisely what Chelsea need right now, after the season they have endured.

The very chaotic nature of that season, though, is one reason why even appointing a manager as a accomplished as this is not the sure thing it used to be.

It is not just that Conte has to start a new project at a hugely idiosyncratic club, or that he is most known for his intensity, and is taking over a team who effectively needed a break from a similarly demanding manager. There’s also the fact that this is a new job in a new league learning a new language - and all while that same league may be entering a new era.

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Even if the improbable rise of Leicester City does not prove lasting, there is growing evidence - after a long build-up period - that we may finally be moving away from the notion of the all-powerful head coach, or even one who is wholly responsible for any success or failure.

Many clubs at the least seem to have realised that it is no longer the best idea to place so much and invest so much authority in one man.

It does seem to have gone a little deeper than that though. You only have to look at the wildly oscillating seasons of so many recent managers. Consider some of the trends.

Roberto Martinez was supreme in his first season at Everton, arguably peaking in 2013/14, but has really struggled since to the point he may be at an irrevocable stagnation. Brendan Rodgers saw a very similar cycle at Liverpool and it is now the same with many other managers, not least the man Conte is replacing in a permanent sense.

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In the end, Jose Mourinho’s grand new era at Chelsea - that he proclaimed he wanted to last at least 10 years - barely lasted for two. His team were ailing well before they finally sealed the 2014/15 title.

It used to be said for so long that three years was the most any manager could be truly effective for without the radical changes someone like Sir Alex Ferguson used to make, but is it possible that the nature of the modern game is shortening even that?

It would be hugely ironic if that theory is true and it gathers even more evidence this year, since next season is going to famously be the campaign of the star coaches. Right now, we are likely to have a situation where all of Conte, Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are in the Premier League.

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Of course, that would put a different spin on the coup of getting coaches like Conte and Guardiola. Those close to the City hierarchy, however, say they have realised and haven’t planned for the Catalan to be there for long. Instead, the idea is that he will take the club up another level, but also “upskill" the coaching hierarchy to embed a new culture. By doing that, they would not be so dependent on any one coach in the long term.

Something similar has happened at Leicester as, even though Claudio Ranieri has justifiably received much praise for this sensational season, many around the club point to the huge influence of a sophisticated and knowledgeable staff.

It is possibly relevant in that regard that Conte has not been named Chelsea ‘manager’. He is ‘first team head coach’. That could point to a new culture.

As with so much at the moment, it’s hard to know, other than to know it’s no longer best practice to place an entire collective culture at the feet of one man.

 

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