The recent history of Chelsea managerial achievements has taken on a strong track record of success. Unfortunately, the recent history of managerial sackings at Stamford Bridge has simultaneously become an increasingly unpleasant state of affairs.
Jose Mourinho, who won the League Cup and the Premier League title during his first season in charge in 2005, retained the title in 2006, won the League Cup and the FA Cup in 2007, and then left in September 2007 ‘by mutual consent’, amid rumours of unrest between Mourinho and club owner Roman Abramovich.
Carlo Ancelotti was appointed in 2009, won the Premier League title and the FA Cup in May 2010 during first season in charge, and sacked in May 2011.
Roberto Di Matteo came in as caretaker manager in March 2012, won the FA Cup and the Champions League in May, was appointed permanent manager in June, and sacked in November 2012.
Jose Mourinho soon returned in 2013, won the League Cup and Premier League title in May 2015, but once again departed in December 2015 ‘by mutual consent.’
Antonio Conte was appointed in summer 2016, won the Premier League title in May 2017 during his first season, won the FA Cup in May 2018, but was sacked two months later.
Antonio Conte has been fired by Chelsea. Never saw that coming.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 12, 2018
In the early years of Roman Abramovich’s reign as Chelsea’s all-conquering owner, overseeing a new period of unprecedented success at Stamford Bridge, the Russian’s ruthlessness with which he handled the club’s managerial situation was seen as a sign of unrelenting ambition.
A new era and a much-desired obsession with prioritising winning over sentimentality, this strict and uncompromising mentality very much defined a new phase of English football.
Over a decade on, the cold, calculated and unrelenting regime of what has become a managerial revolving door at Stamford Bridge has began to wear thin. At best, it has become a little messy. At worst, with the recent sacking of Antonio Conte, it has turned ugly.
In May, Arsene Wenger’s departure from the Arsenal was announced towards the latter stages of the 2017/18 campaign. Gary Neville via the Sun referred to the club's process as a “right mess.”
Neville said of the process in finding Wenger’s replacement: “I’m shocked at the process that has gone on since [the announcement of Wenger’s departure].
“Arsenal are making a right mess of what’s gone on since. They’re all over the place.”
Chelsea, meanwhile, have been the subject of intense speculation regarding their managerial position. All the indications, particularly following the FA Cup final win in May, seemed to be that Antonio Conte would not continue at Stamford Bridge for the 2018/19 season.
The club have signed Jorginho this summer, but the apparent managerial uncertainty has clearly having affected such proceedings.
On July 13, less than a month before their opening Premier League fixture of the upcoming campaign, Chelsea announced that they had parted company with Antonio Conte.
By the time of the announcement, Conte had already led his Chelsea players back into pre-season training. Within days of the Italian’s return to business ahead of the new season, the Chelsea board sacked their manager.
Arsenal’s process of finding a new manager and successfully finding a prime candidate to replace Arsene Wenger after 22 years at the helm was long complete and in motion by the time their London counterparts had announced the departure of Conte.
If Arsenal’s operation was indeed a “right mess”, then Chelsea’s under Abramovich has been utterly shambolic.
Aside from the implications which Chelsea’s clumsy, lethargic and careless process has had directly on the club, it has also been perhaps the clearest case to date of the Chelsea board’s lack of decency and respect when it comes to the handling of their managers.
There has been clear unrest over the part of Antonio Conte at Chelsea since the early phases of the 2017/18 season. After Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic were sold beyond his control last summer and replaced inadequately by Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko, the Italian was clearly no longer comfortable in his position.
A manager of lesser character may have resigned under the circumstances of the increased undermining of his control over his own side from those above him at the club. But Conte is made of sterner stuff, and the Italian battled on.
Inevitably, the negative influence of the off-field issues had a telling impact on results on the pitch, as Conte’s defending Premier League champions staggered to a fifth-place finish, albeit having claimed an FA Cup triumph to round off the campaign.
The most unjust aspects of the situation with respect to Conte’s position were primarily in the complete lack of accountability from both Chelsea’s board and their underperforming players.
It was Abramovich and co who took the decision to sell Nemanja Matic, a key component of Conte’s side, to a domestic rival in Manchester United, and replace him with the incompetent Bakayoko.
It was Diego Costa who threw his toys out of the pram, despite Conte’s faith in the striker, and forced his move away from the club, whilst Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois flirted sporadically throughout the last year with the notion of moves to Real Madrid.
Despite Conte’s best efforts to persist with his direction which had guided his side to a hard-fought Premier League title triumph during his first season in charge, it was the players and those above him at the club who ultimately let him down.
Inevitably, as has become the blueprint of ‘success’ at Stamford Bridge over the last decade, it was the manager who paid the ultimate price.
Tellingly, it was leaked to Sky Sports that Conte’s sacking had been a result of his “alienation of several players and a complete breakdown in communication with the club’s board.”
Chelsea’s flipping of the matter onto the manager’s head may still be effective in their ability to sack their manager and point the finger at the man in charge of the team, but it is no longer as fooling or convincing as to the legitimacy of those in the big chairs hanging their managers out to dry in such farcical fashion.