'Antonio Conte has disgraced the Chelsea badge'

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In a season of mediocrity, Chelsea put it upon themselves to deliver one final contender for “worst performance of the season” as they stunk the place out in losing 3-0 to Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle side.

16th May 2018

It was a dreadful end to what has been a shocking Premier League campaign, particularly in 2018, and as a result we failed to qualify for the Champions League.

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A bitterly disappointing campaign started in tatters at home to Burnley and ended, rather fittingly, in similar disarray with a display reminiscent of all too many games from 10 months of turbulence at Stamford Bridge.

Once again, Antonio Conte cut a disinterested figure in the dugout. Despite some wretched performances from his players, he showed no visible anger on the touchline, instead displaying a mere acceptance for what was occurring in front of him.

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His post-match comments were an abdication of any blame for the side’s poor finish in the league, and ever since the opening day, there has been a sense of self-preservation around his demeanour.

More interested in blaming the board than himself, his antics have disgraced the badge and this performance at St James’ Park further illustrated that he could not care less about the club he is paid handsomely by. 

While Conte is at the heart of the shortcomings, his players must also take responsibility. We allowed Jonjo Shelvey the freedom of Newcastle as he dictated the tempo of the game and made our Player of the Year in N’Golo Kante look ordinary, while the less said about Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley the better.

Nobody played anywhere near their maximum here, however, which suggests to me that Conte’s coaching and man-management is as much a reason for the poor performance as anything the players are doing.

This defeat, plus numerous other under-par showings, have culminated in the FA Cup final this upcoming weekend being dreaded by the majority, instead of being looked forward to.

It is a sad state of affairs when a large proportion of the fanbase cannot find themselves being excited for a match that should be the climax of a season, the final hurrah and, most importantly, the opportunity to clinch silverware and enjoy a day in the sun at the national stadium.

Only Conte and his charges have sucked the life out of the club this season, the Italian at the forefront of this with his sulking. The prospect of a final against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United is one of dread and - to be honest - the season’s end cannot come soon enough.

Confidence in the result against United is minimal, especially considering our former manager’s record in finals, which is almost flawless.

The FA Cup final should be an opportunity to end the season on a high. But this one feels as if it will provide a sorry end to a season of disappointment, with the result merely a formality, and the actual match itself providing an unwelcome distraction from the final hurrah of drinking and enjoying the day with the friends who have shared the same emotions throughout the season.

The sense of inevitability hurts and going into a Cup Final like this just shouldn’t occur. 

Personally, I do not feel Conte deserves the opportunity to add a trophy to his CV and the honour of leading Chelsea out in the FA Cup Final.

He has shown incredible disrespect to the board, players, and - most importantly - supporters throughout the entire season.

He has sabotaged his team in what have, at times, appeared to be deliberate attempts to sacrifice results in order to make a perverse statement to the board about the squad and resources at his disposal, all whilst blissfully unaware that over £250 million has been spent since securing the league title.

It may be a bold statement to suggest he should be dismissed before the Cup Final but, considering the likelihood of him remaining at the club after this season is very slim, I believe we have more chance of winning the Cup if he is not in charge. By that logic, he should be dismissed.

There are wider problems at board level that need addressing by the Stamford Bridge hierarchy but Conte has been a vacuum of positivity throughout the season and this has radiated onto his squad.

He cannot remain in charge and if he’s still in the dugout come Cup Final day, I just do not see us climbing into the Royal Box victorious.