By EDIALE KINGSLEY
IF the widespread reports are to be believed, Antonio Conte is hot favourite to become the next Chelsea manager. The former Juventus manager is likely to take charge at Stamford Bridge after seeing out his contract with the Italy national team at the end of the Euro Championships in the summer. Conte’s representatives are expected to begin negotiations with the Chelsea director, Marina Granovskaia, as the Blues keen to secure him as their permanent successor to Jose Mourinho ahead of next season. Naturally, there is an excitement and buzz about what type of players Conte can bring with him at Chelsea.
Conte primarily used 3-5-2 system at Juventus, but he has switched to 4-3-3 successfully on various occasions; the tactical flexibility has seen him lose just 18 games in his 167 as a manager since joining the Old Lady in 2011. According to Sky Sport’s Italian football expert Augusto de Bartolo, “Conte’s strategy is based on a solid defensive pack, with a backline of three, which he used at Juventus because of the players he had, or four, which he is using with Italy. His style is not based on possession like a Pep Guardiola team it is based on direct football, to the wings or to the strikers.”
He went further, “In the non-possession phase, his team pressures opponents high up the pitch even when defenders are trying to play out from the back. “Conte uses an aggressive approach, trying to win the ball back as soon as the team can, making the space near the ball short and busy.”
The best thing about Conte is that he is capable of adapting his system according to the players’ capabilities. Having said that he would certainly make few changes, and I think there are three areas where he can make a significant addition to the squad: strike department, central midfield and central defense.
Striker: This is one area where Chelsea need a massive reinforcement. Diego Costa remains the first choice striker for the Blues, but he may be tempted to make a move back to Spain with Atletico Madrid. However, it’s the situation with the supporting strikers that should be a reason for concern. Loic Remy doesn’t seem to have a long term future at the club, while Chelsea will be relieved to see the back off Radamel Falcao, who will return to Monaco after finishing his disastrous loan spell. Therefore, Chelsea may look to sign at least one striker of supreme quality. PSG striker Edinson Cavani could come into contention. The Uruguayan was frequently linked with a move to Juventus during Conte’s time at the club, and the Italian may look to sign him this time around.
Midfield: In the midfield, Chelsea’s first priority will be to sign Paul Pogba. The Frenchman was signed by Conte at Juve, and under his tutelage, Pogba has gradually developed into a world class midfielder. Barcelona are also reported to be interested in Pogba, but it will turn out to be a huge coup for the Blues, should Conte manages to persuade the Frenchman to join him at Stamford Bridge next summer. Conte is also a big admirer of Roma’s Radja Nainggolan and if the reports are to be believed, Chelsea has earmarked him as one of the priority signings for next summer. Another midfielder who might interest Chelsea is Bayern’s Arturo Vidal. Vidal was a key member of the Juventus side that won three back to back Serie A titles.
Defence: Bartolo says: “I think that the attention of Conte in the transfer market will be focused on the defence.” Conte will definitely be excited with the talents at hand like Kurt Zouma or Baba Rahman, but he needs to find an able replacement for the departing skipper, John Terry. Chelsea probably will try to sign John Stones from Everton, but I’m not too sure whether Conte would consider him as his first choice. Rather he would be more interested in having more technical players like AC Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli, who is often compared with the likes of Milan legend Nesta.