Conte’s cham­pi­ons stick to the script as they lurch from ti­tle glory to cri­sis

Daily Mail - - The Verdict - SAMI MOKBEL at Stam­ford Bridge IN­SIGHT CHRIS SUT­TON

WE HAVE seen this movie be­fore. We know how it ends. Eu­phoric suc­cess, an im­plo­sion of epic pro­por­tions end­ing in a man­age­rial de­par­ture. That’s the Chelsea script.

The un­rav­el­ling started in stun­ning fash­ion on Satur­day as Burn­ley smashed three past the Pre­mier League cham­pi­ons be­fore half-time with­out re­sponse — two goals from Sam Vokes and one from Stephen Ward left Chelsea shell­shocked.

New cap­tain Gary Cahill’s straight red card for a dan­ger­ous chal­lenge on Steven De­four in the 14th minute did not help, though ref­eree Craig Paw­son’s de­ci­sion looked harsh.

Nor did Cesc Fabre­gas’s sec­ond­half red card for two book­ings — one for sar­cas­ti­cally clap­ping one of Paw­son’s de­ci­sions in the af­ter­math of Cahill’s dis­missal, the other for a reck­less lunge on Jack Cork.

Goals from record sign­ing Al­varo Mo­rata, im­pres­sive as a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute, and David Luiz meant nine-man Chelsea were not to­tally em­bar­rassed but make no mis­take, An­to­nio Conte has some se­ri­ous prob­lems to deal with.

What should have been a sum­mer spent rev­el­ling in ti­tle glory was over­shad­owed by ten­sions be­tween Conte and Chelsea’s board over trans­fer busi­ness. Where have we heard that be­fore? Hav­ing lost a host of first-team­ers, in­clud­ing John Terry, Ne­manja Matic, Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah, Conte needs re­place­ments.

Also, more than 20 con­tracted play­ers, in­clud­ing Ruben Lof­tusCheek and Kurt Zouma, have been al­lowed to leave on loan.

Chelsea have, of course, spent close to £150mil­lion on Mo­rata, An­to­nio Rudi­ger and Tiemoue Bakayoko. Yet the squad is thread­bare.

The fact Conte started with 20year-old for­ward Jeremie Boga — who lasted just 16 min­utes due to Cahill’s red card — as well as nam­ing academy prod­ucts Kyle Scott, Fikayo To­mori and Charly Mu­sonda on the bench high­lights the lack of num­bers. In­juries have not helped and things will look health­ier once Bakayoko, Eden Haz­ard and Pe­dro re­turn.

Burn­ley man­ager Sean Dy­che could also claim to be short of num­bers af­ter los­ing Michael Keane and An­dre Gray this sum­mer. He said: ‘We’ve had it hap­pen many times since I’ve been here.

‘Al­most every year, ar­guably some of the best play­ers go. It’s not some­thing I want to hap­pen, but it’s about fo­cus­ing on what you do next. I’m not re­ally one for cry­ing.’

Conte de­nied that his selec­tion was a mes­sage to the hi­er­ar­chy, in­sist­ing he is leav­ing the is­sue of trans­fers to the board.

‘It’s my squad and I want to fight with these play­ers,’ he said. Ques­tion is: how long does he get to fight?

Bids for Ar­se­nal’s Alex OxladeCham­ber­lain have been re­jected, as have of­fers for Ju­ven­tus’s Alex San­dro. The days when Chelsea could throw money at the prob­lem are over. Fi­nan­cially, clubs are now able to keep their best play­ers.

But while Conte, at least pub­licly, plays a straight bat on trans­fers, de­fender Ce­sar Azpilicueta was not so re­served. ‘When you see the play­ers we lost, and the play­ers we signed in, they’re not the same,’ said the Spain in­ter­na­tional.

‘We have good young play­ers but we must know the re­al­ity that be­ing cham­pi­ons is even harder the next sea­son.

‘We have ex­pe­ri­ence of that so we need play­ers — also for the de­vel­op­ment of the young play­ers. They need help from top play­ers, not to rush them in where maybe they are not ready to go at the mo­ment.

‘So it is some­thing that the club are work­ing on with the man­ager, and, hope­fully, we can get new sign­ings in the next few weeks.’

SU­PER STAT: Chelsea are the first Pre­mier League cham­pi­ons to con­cede three goals in the first match of the fol­low­ing sea­son.

CHELSEA (3-4-3): Cour­tois 6; Rudi­ger 5.5, Luiz 6, Cahill 4; Azpilicueta 6.5, Fabre­gas 4, Kante 5.5, Alonso 6; Wil­lian 6.5, Bat­shuayi 5 (Mo­rata 58min, 7), Boga 5 (Chris­tensen 16, 5.5; Mu­sonda 89). Subs not used: Ca­ballero, Kenedy, Scott, To­mori. Scor­ers: Mo­rata 69, Luiz 88. Booked: Rudi­ger, Luiz, Alonso. Sent off: Cahill, Fabre­gas. Man­ager: An­to­nio Conte 6. BURN­LEY (4-3-2-1): Heaton 7; Low­ton 7, Mee 7, Tarkowski 7.5, Ward 8; Cork 8.5, De­four 8 (Wal­ters 75, 6), Hen­drick 7; Brady 7, Gud­munds­son 6.5 (Ar­field 75, 6); Vokes 8.

Subs not used: Pope, Tay­lor, Barnes, West­wood, Long. Scor­ers: Vokes 24, 43, Ward 39. Booked: Mee, Ar­field, Brady. Man­ager: Sean Dy­che 8.

Man of the match: Jack Cork. Ref­eree: Craig Paw­son 6.5.

Attendance: 41,616.

AN­TO­NIO CONTE sported a track­suit rather than his usual suit when he took to the touch­line against Burn­ley. He doesn’t need to change the way he dresses. He needs a change of per­son­nel. The man­ager did not put a foot wrong as Chelsea won the ti­tle. He played a blinder in man­ag­ing Diego Costa when the striker wanted to leave the club in Jan­uary, keep­ing things around the camp calm. This sum­mer he has taken his eye off the ball and — as Satur­day’s de­feat showed — ev­ery­thing is im­plod­ing around him. Conte wants com­plete con­trol at the club. He has tried to send a mes­sage to the board that he needs bet­ter play­ers by let­ting more than 20 leave but in do­ing so, Conte has left his squad des­per­ately short. He is los­ing his cool and can­not seem to con­trol his play­ers. It re­ally does not bode well when


High riser: Vokes leaps to power in the third for Burn­ley A word in your ear: Conte protests to fourth of­fi­cial Lee Ma­son

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