Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Conte & Chelsea must look beyond Hazard

It was a massacre on Saturday. Arsenal were good. Very,
very good. But Chelsea were woeful. Not the manager. Not
the away support. It was those on the pitch.

As Antonio Conte is quickly learning, Mourinho wasn't the
problem last season. They talk a good game at Chelsea.
Indeed, a great game. As the manager says, they look good
"on paper". But the culture inside the locker room is
deteriorating. It has been for over 12 months. Ever since
they broke up after raising the Premier League crown at
Stamford Bridge. Fitness schedules were blanked. Diets
ignored. Many senior players returned for last year's
preseason overweight and under-motivated. Mourinho
recognised the problems immediately, he needed fresh blood
to shake things up. But his warnings fell on deaf ears - and
he was out of a job before Christmas.

Conte needs to recognise its 'me or them'.

Guus Hiddink succeeded Mourinho and - for the first few
weeks - had appeared to right the ship. The noises about a
calmer approach. Less distractions. Y'know, the sort of
thing we've heard from the players this season. They were
all being made. Even the prospect of a top four challenge
was raised. The players just needed a different style of
manager, we were told. A players' coach. Someone who
truly understood them.

But by the end of the season, there were no Cups won. A
mid-table finish was just about managed. And Hiddink, after
being so bullish in those first few days, actually claimed
he'd fulfilled his brief by avoiding relegation.
Now the baton is in Conte's hand. It's his problem to have.
And he's already being let down by those inside the locker
room. It really is 'me or them'.

How can you suggest otherwise when Branislav Ivanovic ,
after Saturday's mauling, admitted the players had ignored
everything that Conte had sent them out to do?
"We didn't believe in what we were doing at the beginning
and we were punished.

"As a team we didn't answer anything the manager asked of
us, we have to be honest with ourselves and put more
attention on the small details. We have to be more focused
and concentrated on the game."

So where to start? It has to be at the top. A decision must
be made about Eden Hazard. This isn't the "flag bearer", as
they like to say in Italy, that Chelsea need. He was 18
months ago. But we're now realising what we saw from the
Belgian was just a one off. This is it for Eden. He's satisfied
with being a good player, capable of greatness when the
mood takes him. But he's no leader. And he's no De
The Manchester City flyer has been in Hazard's shadow all
his life. Even when, not yet in high school, they were
highlighted by local Belgian media as juniors, it was always
Hazard first, then De Bruyne. But no longer. City have a
world-beater on their hands. Not just in ability, but also
attitude. He's not going to settle. He's determined to
improve. A player to lift the profile of Manchester City
around the world. To fly the flag. De Bruyne is fast
becoming everything Hazard could be, but chooses not to.
And this is why Conte can't rely on his No10. A fine player.
But not someone to build your team around. And not
someone to reconstruct a winning culture inside the
dressing room.

Hazard is the main man at Chelsea. The biggest name. Both
for the fans outside the club and those working with him
inside Cobham. And that's the problem. Chelsea need to
look beyond the Belgian. He can no longer be the focus for
the club. He just doesn't want it.

And the big question is, long term, will Conte want him? It's
difficult to see the two, as things stand today, working
together over an extended period. Conte doesn't do project
players. He doesn't indulge mavericks. What you see is what
you get from the manager. Passion, energy and absolute
desire. And this is what he demands from his players. You
can see him being successful with De Bruyne. But Hazard?
The 2016 version...?
If it comes to the crunch and Conte does realise its 'me or
them', he has to hope Piet de Visser, the brilliant Dutch
talent spotter, still has the ear of Chelsea's owner, Roman

Speaking about Hazard's problems last year with Mourinho,
De Visser laid it all bare:
"Eden is a player who has moments of genius. Mourinho
tried to turn him into an enhanced version of Messi or
Ronaldo, but this is impossible. Hazard will never be like
"Eden is Eden. He is a player with brilliant individual actions,
but someone who will never be a machine. He also wants to
relax. You should never make him the player who must carry
the team.
"Do not make him the captain. Just tell him to have fun on
the field."

There wasn't much fun on the Emirates field Saturday. And
indulging the attitude of players like Eden Hazard is now the
problem. It's staring Conte in the face. He needs to decide:
it's me or them.

   Source: tribalfootball

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