Chelsea 1-1 Huddersfield - Conte gets it wrong

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Sabotage. The only word I can use to describe Antonio Conte’s team selection. When news filtered through an hour before kick-off that Olivier Giroud, Thibaut Courtois and, most notably, Eden Hazard, were left out of the starting line-up, there was a reaction of utter bemusement on the District Line heading to Fulham Broadway.

10th May 2018

What was the logic, the rationale behind leaving out key players in a must-win game? Not only did the selection leave most Chelsea supporters confused, but it doubtless filtered through to the Huddersfield dressing-room and provided them with a welcome lift. 

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That welcome lift would only have been exacerbated when, even after about 10 minutes, Chelsea’s tempo was slow, ponderous and lacking in any real invention. Cesc Fabregas aside, nobody looked capable of unlocking the door, and even Fabregas had a poor night in trying to create opportunities.

Willian and Pedro in the wide positions were utterly atrocious, with Willian giving the ball away with ease and Pedro barely touching the ball. The highlight of our first half came from N’Golo Kante dribbling the ball out of play and somehow receiving a standing ovation for this.

In fact, the first half was a total non-event as Huddersfield camped in their area and we failed to look threatening bar the odd snapshot, or the odd cross which came to little.

But early in the second half, we contrived to allow a team playing with no intention of scoring a goal to actually score a goal. A comedy of defensive errors culminated in the goal that sparked the introduction of Giroud and Hazard, but there was hardly a person in the ground who didn’t think the two in-form attackers should have started the game.

Yeah we equalised, albeit fortuitously, and yeah we had chances to win the game following Hazard’s introduction in particular, but it’s unfathomable that he didn’t start the game. The first half was a prelude to life without the Belgian should he leave the club for the Champions League which befits his quality. The second was steeped in frantic desperation as we tried to resurrect our chances of Champions League qualification, something which looks beyond us following this poor result. 

It wasn’t just this occasion which has contributed to failure to be in the top four. We have struggled far too often to score goals, with only 30 goals in 19 home games less than half that of Manchester City.

We failed to react to a downward spiral in terms of form, and the board failed to sack Conte when it became obvious to the watching world that he was more interested in groaning and sniping than being at the club. Conte’s antics have been unacceptable this season, and the Huddersfield result is just another black mark on his managerial performance this season.

Frustrations at the final whistle were largely directed at Lee Mason and Jonas Lossl in the Huddersfield goal for excessive time-wasting. However, these frustrations were misguided. The direction of anger should’ve been towards the dugout, towards a man who has done his level best to send the season on a downward curve.

Despite being second after 21 games, a woeful run of 12 points in 11 games ensured we plummeted out of contention for the Premier League’s top four and the Champions League, all while Conte continued to sulk on the touchline.

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3-0 at home to Bournemouth, 4-1 away at Watford, back-to-back defeats in Manchester including the gutless performance at the Etihad, the relinquishing of the Tottenham home record and a lacklustre exit in the Champions League to Barcelona, all amidst his aura of negativity and defeatism has ensured I cannot wait for the day Antonio Conte leaves Chelsea.

I hope he isn’t rewarded for his failure by being granted the honour of leading the team out at Wembley for the FA Cup Final. He doesn’t deserve it. He is a saboteur who put his ego ahead of the club’s best wishes, and this cannot be forgiven.

The end is near, and the end cannot come quickly enough, even with the Cup Final on the horizon. It’s a goodbye and good riddance to a man once adored by all at Stamford Bridge. 

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