We found ourselves in a curious position down the final stretch of this Premier League season, with two of the top football clubs having already confirmed a managerial change would take place at the end of it. Pep Guardiola will take the reins at Manchester City, while Antonio Conte has already been lined up for the Chelsea job.
Guardiola will be expected to challenge for the title in his first season at financial powerhouses City, but Conte may be given more time than Chelsea managers are accustomed to, to settle into his role. This season’s mid-table finish has something to do with the lower expectations, as does a predicted clear out of an aging squad that Conte will be forced to undertake. But it is the remarkable events of 2015-2016 that will also shape the former Juventus midfielder and manager’s first experiences in the job.
Not only will the usual suspects – Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City – be desperate to make amends for their average seasons, but there are also the new kids on the block next season – a pacy and free scoring Tottenham Hotspur, and of course, the incredible champions Leicester City (if they can keep hold of the unlikely superstars that have made their particular brand of counter attacking football such a delight to watch this year).
How Conte will deal with these different threats is probably no different to how most Chelsea managers have done over the past decade or so – with the cheque book of owner Roman Abramovich. But then how can he be expected to build a new side overnight, let alone even begin to address the apparent inability of Chelsea to produce consistent first team performers from their academy?
Unless we see a Jose Mourinho – style meltdown in which players succumb to a near mutiny – which, given Conte’s forthright man management style and hot temper, is entirely possible – it is likely that he will be cut a little bit more slack than previous Abramovich employees have been.
One thing Conte has in common with six of the last seven permanent Chelsea managers is that the job is his first in the Premier League. It seems Abramovich is happy to seek the highest profile managerial talents in the world, whether or not they have experience in England. Looking at the case of Mourinho alone tells us that can end in spectacular victory, or dramatic failure.