And so it has come to pass; the long goodbye is over. Antonio Conte has been sacked after two seasons and two trophies and two extra months at Chelsea Football Club. He implored the club at the final hour back in May to make the smart choice; after an uncharacteristically long delay, they chose not to do so and instead paid his severance to make him go away.
In all reality, Conte’s non-shocking fate — surely we’re used to these things by now — was set in stone some time ago, certainly as far as the narrative was concerned. We were simply waiting for the specific circumstances to fall into place. As it turned out, those circumstances took some time to materialize, but the Sarri-saga is now nearing its end, so here we are, finally.
Chelsea’s curt statement stands in hilarious and petty contrast with how long this has been dragged out (and could continue to be dragged out).
“Chelsea Football Club and Antonio Conte have parted company.
During Antonio’s time at the club, we won our sixth league title and eighth FA Cup. In the title winning season, the club set a then-record 30 wins in a 38-game Premier League season, as well as a club-record 13 consecutive league victories.
We wish Antonio every success in his future career.”
The FA Cup final win over Manchester United in May felt good, but it was not quite enough to undo the overall disappointment of the second-season slump. The first year’s relentless march to the title was replaced by far too much inconsistency and a plethora of other issues that tend to bubble to the surface whenever a team isn’t winning every weekend.
No one’s blameless for the failure to finish in the top four and thus miss out on the Champions League, but at the end of the day, the responsibility falls on the manager. He is the most sackable piece of the equation. So the head coach who was the toast of the town twelve months ago, is now simply just toast. Such are fortunes at the top level of the game, in the Premier League. One day you’re up, one day you’re down, one day you’re a passionate tactical and motivational genius, the next you’re a sulking bore and money-hungry charlatan. There is no middle ground, no room for mild takes in modern football.
So what’s done is done. Conte’s out and the new sheriff will soon be in town, with new ideas, new ideals, and new requirements. Change can be scary or exciting, but the future looks extra cloudy and uncertain at the moment. There is a half-built skeleton of a great team here, but the rest of the parts are not working as well as they should be. Conte may have been able to fix them, he may have not; now we’ll never know.