Antonio Conte is not the problem and neither is his stubbornness or mentality. The pieces we put around him are the same pieces that cost our greatest manager ever his job.
People like to act like he inherited Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli, but the truth is he MADE them. The season before Conte took over Juventus, the Old Lady finished 7th in a weakened Serie A and crashed out of the group stages in the Europa League to Lech Poznan. Yes, the famous Italian trio we know today conceded 3 goals to Lech Poznan. The season after, Juve won the league without losing a single game and conceding 27 less goals than the season before.
Like it or not, our club is still heavily reliant on John Terry. In fact, we have not won a single league game since Terry got injured. Coincidence? Of course not. As one of the few people that highly criticized the return of David Luiz, it was always going to be a rough few weeks until either Terry or Zouma returned. People seem to forget that some of our most humiliating defeats came while Luiz and Cahill were paired together (4-1 Atletico Madrid anyone?).
I am quick to rush to the defense of Conte because he has none. In every game Luiz and Cahill have played for us, we have given up two goals in the first half! With the exception of a brilliant Jordan Henderson strike (the consequence of a poor Cahill clearance) they have not been brilliant on behalf of the opposition. They have almost all been the result of Cahill and, to a slightly lesser extent, Luiz making inexcusable errors. A manager is only as good as the decision-making of his players.
There was no coming back today. We could have subbed the whole team and we were not winning it. The second Cahill’s error dug us into an early hole, we were done. We didn’t have anyone out there to inspire a victory. We can be hypocritical and call out Conte for putting in Alonso when we were already down and still call Ancelotti “hard-done” even after he subbed in Paulo Ferreira when we needed a goal. Ancelotti threw in the towel when there was still a chance, Conte threw in the towel when there was no chance.
I trust Conte’s judgement. People have been desperately calling for Fabregas to start over Oscar and he was miserable today. Batshuayi has been brilliant during his cameos but didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in his most recent start and even fluffed our best opportunity today.
The issues in the team are not on Conte. They are one the board. We shipped out the wrong players to appease managers that we did not back. We are caught in two minds between partially giving a manager what he wants and then blaming the manager when we don’t do what he wants. You’re mistaken if you think Conte wanted Luiz for one second. I’m sure he gave the board a long list of players he wanted before they told him they were bringing in Luiz.
I wondered the same thing with Mourinho last year. He did not get anything he wanted in the transfer window and basically put out a team that begged for the board to listen to him. What is Conte supposed to do? I cringe every time I see Luiz and Cahill together on the team sheet but that’s the only option he has at this point. Moving Branna centrally and throwing Alonso out on the left is hardly a great alternative given the lack of familiarity between the players involved.
It is extremely hard to break out of a poor run of form, but Conte deserves the opportunity to do it. Anyone growing impatient with Conte already needs to understand the cards he has been given.