The identity of Chelsea’s next coach is arguably the worst kept secret in football, with Antonio Conte widely expected to be appointed this summer.
That theory was further strengthened with the presence of Gary Staker, Chelsea’s player liaison officer, at Italy’s friendly with Spain in Udine on Thursday night, although prior to that, speculation has been rife over a deal already being reached with an official announcement all that is missing, as reported by The Express.
Conte’s contract with the FIGC expires this summer, and having confirmed that it would not be renewed, the Italian tactician will be free to secure his move to the Premier League.
In turn, Chelsea fans will have a keen eye on how the Azzurri fare this summer, and also the way in which Conte’s side lines up and the style of play that they adopt.
Throughout his managerial career thus far, and particularly at Juventus where he enjoyed great success, Conte always manages to get the most out of his players from a desire and effort point of view.
However, his tactical flexibility has also been a standout aspect of his approach, and he showcased it again on Thursday night in the 1-1 draw with Spain.
The 46-year-old used a 3-4-3 formation against Vicente Del Bosque’s men, and despite some raised eyebrows over his starting line-up and system prior to kick off, the Azzurri ultimately went on to impress and were unfortunate not to win the game.
Although both sides weren’t at full strength, Italy played some good football and it will give them hope that they can perform better than they did in Brazil two years ago when they crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage.
With Belgium, Ireland and Sweden to navigate past in France this summer, Conte has a big job on his hands. However, his ability to assess the opposition, tailor his own side to exploit their weakness while maintaining their own strengths, could see him outfox countless Premier League managers next season.
He will face some excellent tactical minds along the way, but Conte’s imaginative ability to work with what he has and deploy his personnel in various formations will undoubtedly make him an unpredictable leader in a predominantly positive light, although expect some bumps in the road along the way.