Next Chelsea Manager: Assessing the Candidates to Replace Antonio Conte7 min read
Antonio Conte is a dead man walking.
It’s now a matter of when, not if, Chelsea will give their current head coach the chop.
Damaging back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and Watford have seen the Blues boss backed into as short as to be the next Premier League manager to go.
Which names are in the running to replace the Italian and who looks like they’d be the best fit to work under the volatile Roman Abramovich?
A somewhat surprise favourite at , Enrique has been out of work since leaving Barcelona at the end of the 2016-17 campaign.
Luis Enrique taking over at Chelsea just before a Champions League tie with Barcelona and PL games vs Mourinho & Guardiola would be a LOT of fun.
— Andy West (@andywest01) February 6, 2018
The Spaniard does bear similarities to Conte, in that he favours a counter-attacking style of football and is extremely animated on the touchline.
Enrique probably didn’t receive quite the credit he deserved for winning the treble of La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League in his first season in charge at Camp Nou.
He showed superb man management skills to turn around a season which look dead and buried in January and set up the team to get the absolute best of the lethal front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Praise was lavished on this famed ‘MSN’ trio, who plundered an incredible 122 goals in all competitions in 2014-15 – which meant less of the focus was on Enrique.
A lot of Barca’s success was down to the manager; he gained the respect of a dressing room full of egos and his squad rotation policy allowed the Catalan club to compete on all three fronts without the players suffering from burnout.
Critics will point to the two seasons that followed – Enrique appeared too stubborn to vary his tactics and Barca failed to get past the quarter-final stages in the Champions League, but Chelsea’s hierarchy seem to have been impressed enough by his record-breaking 2014-15 term.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Abramovich has Hiddink on speed dial, with the Dutchman in line for his third spell at Stamford Bridge since 2009.
Hiddink is second favourite for the position at and would most likely come in until the end of the season and help his friend Abramovich out by steadying the ship.
He is an experienced figure who commands respect and would in no way be overwhelmed by any potential problems such as dressing room rifts, injuries or suspensions.
This is underlined by Hiddink holding the record for the longest unbeaten streak as a new manager in the Premier League – the Blues didn’t lose any of his 12 games in charge in 2015-16, with Chelsea having suffered 9 defeats in 15 before Jose Mourinho was sacked earlier that campaign.
It seems strange that a man who was allegedly sacked in the corridor of Goodison Park just over 12 months after leading Chelsea to an historic domestic double is one of the favourites to go straight back into the hot-seat, but Chelsea don’t do things in the conventional way.
Most Blues’ fans would jump with joy if the loveable Italian were to return – he is to manage at Stamford Bridge for a second time.
The attacking football that was produced under Ancelotti was some of the best the Premier League has ever seen, as Chelsea scored 103 goals and won the title and the FA Cup with some swagger back in 2009-10.
Most recently at Bayern Munich, Ancelotti drew immense criticism from the German media and sections of his playing squad, who claimed his approach was too hands-off and that training sessions were nowhere near at the level of intensity required, which ultimately ended with his dismissal after a poor showing in a 3-0 defeat away to Paris Saint Germain in September.
The Premier League has changed quite a bit since Ancelotti’s last reign, and personally I’d love to see him given another chance – it’d be fascinating to see how he’d approach a title challenge against the new wave of coaches that includes Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.
If there’s one man who hasn’t had a crack at managing a European powerhouse that deserves one, it’s Sarri.
The 59-year-old has only managed for four seasons in the top flight, but in each one he has defied expectations – and looks on course to lead Napoli to a remarkable first Serie A title since 1989.
Born in Naples, the Italian’s hometown club are playing beautiful and effective football under his stewardship – they won seven straight Serie A games for the first time ever at the start of this campaign, and also went unbeaten for 19 matches stretching back from last term until December of last year.
All of this has been achieved while competing with a limited transfer budget compared to the top Italian sides – Sarri’s success has been a triumph for coaching, with players such as centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and winger-turned-striker Dries Mertens improving greatly under his guidance.
City boss Guardiola lavished praise on his managerial counterpart after the Citizens faced Napoli in the Champions League group stages, which did nothing to dampen speculation about Sarri potentially moving to the Premier League.
Chelsea can no longer compete with the financial strength of Manchester City and Manchester United – so bringing in a highly pragmatic manager would seem to make sense.
It is also worth noting the Italian has a very affordable €8m release clause in his contract – he comes in at to be the next Blues boss.