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After the collapse at Vicarage Road, it’s rather unsurprising that stories surrounding Antonio Conte’s future in his job as Chelsea manager have emerged.
The highest profile report actually came from Spain with newspaper SPORT which suggested that the former Barcelona coach was Roman Abramovich’s first choice to replace the Italian.
At this moment the official club line from Stamford Bridge is that Conte will remain in his position and that the Russian owner will not again allow player power to force his hand with regards to a managerial dismissal.
Conte’s mood following the disastrous 4-1 defeat against Watford appeared to be one of calm resignation.
“I work every day and I work very hard, I’m not worried,” he explained in his post-match press conference.
“My soul is clear and I can sleep easily, I have tried to do everything. I am not worried about my job; if my work isn’t enough then the club can take a different decision.”
One of the reasons for the supposed targeting of the former Roma coach given in the SPORT report is that Roman Abramovich admires the style of football Enrique has championed during his coaching career and he believes the Asturian can turn the Blues into a replica of Barcelona.
To a degree this can be accepted as true, Enrique’s teams at both Celta Vigo and Roma played expansive football, although his results in the Italian capital were poor and he was sacked after just one season.
It’s one of the great theories of Abramovich’s reign at the club that he has always wanted a team that not only wins, but wins with spectacular style. So many coaches have gone through the revolving door at Stamford Bridge that a specific style never has the time to grow.
Chelsea’s greatest successes in the Abramovich era have actually come with coaches who are defensive minded; Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Conte himself.
Of course, Roberto Di Matteo did lift the European Cup, although this was a rather anomalous result and the Italian was dismissed before Christmas the next season.
The Barcelona style that so many clubs admire and wish to replicate is the one cultivated by Pep Guardiola, it’s worth noting that there are only three teams to have played in such a way since the turn of the millennium, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
The common denominator in all of those teams? Guardiola himself.
There is a clear reason for this, the coach’s style is incredibly difficult to copy, probably impossible, it’s also worth noting that every Barcelona team since his departure has had a slightly varied style.
One of the hallmarks of Enrique’s time with the Catalan giants, especially his debut season, was how he managed to blend the possession based style with effective work on the counter attack. Ivan Rakitic was a key addition and the team won the Champions League by the end of his first season.
Now if we fast forward to Enrique’s final season in charge, the team had lost all flair, results were poor and the relationship between the coach and his players had become somewhat strained.
Just as happened to Guardiola before him, the pressures of the job had taken their toll on the Spaniard and he couldn’t wait to leave.
After a season-long hiatus, he is ready to get back into coaching, however Chelsea may not be getting the coach they think they are.
A large portion of Chelsea’s squad, especially players who have been purchased in the last three windows, all fit a certain system. That system just so happens to be a five at the back formation used by Conte.
Enrique would be walking into a job where there are several players on large contracts who he may not be able to use, Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, and Emerson Palmieri to name just three.
Chelsea would need to hand Enrique funds in the transfer market to kick-start his project, yet this is something they haven’t been willing to do for Conte, a coach who actually won the club the Premier League.
Luis Enrique’s style of football isn’t the free flowing style that Manchester City have swept the Premier League with, it’s more efficient, it’s more balanced. This may well be suited to the Premier League, yet it isn’t what the Russian believes he is getting.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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