Antonio Conte’s reign as Chelsea manager looks increasingly likely to end with the Italian being sacked before he’s seen out his second season at the English Premier League club.
Conte’s relationship with a key executive is understood to be at breaking point, with his methods now being questioned by Chelsea players.
Accustomed to the carousel coach sackings of a regime which argues that frequent managerial change has contributed to the club’s success, Chelsea staff describe Conte as a “dead man walking”.
Individuals close to the 48-year-old said he has already decided to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of this campaign – assuming Roman Abramovich does not dismiss him before then.
Conte’s long-standing complaints about the billionaire owner’s inaccessibility, the club’s failure to support his efforts to add a Champions League trophy to the Premier League title secured in his debut season, and the quality and quantity of player recruitment are all factors in his visible discontent.
The Italian’s infamously irascible mood has deteriorated as Chelsea have lost domestic and European points to Burnley, Arsenal, Manchester City, Crystal Palace and AS Roma.
Crucially, Conte has allowed his relationship with Abramovich’s principal advisor at Chelsea to deteriorate to the point where an accelerated divorce now appears the most probable outcome.
According to multiple sources, director Marina Granovskaia has become exasperated with both Conte’s attempts to impose his will upon the club and what is described as “disrespectful behaviour” when thwarted.
The manager’s position has not been aided by a growing resistance amongst the playing staff to an intense training regime that separates physical preparation from technical and tactical work which includes repetitive drills on attacking shape.
The addition of Champions League football to Chelsea’s schedule this campaign has seen a series of key individuals succumb to muscular injuries, while players continue to note the “boring” nature of some of Conte’s training sessions.
Conflict with the board plus player dissent are recurring themes for coaches in the Abramovich era.
Should Conte become the latest casualty of Chelsea’s structural dysfunctionality he will be the fourth Premier League winning manager to be sacked by the Russian. Only Jose Mourinho – in his first period at the club – survived longer than a year after securing the English title.