How Far Has Chelsea’s Star Faded and Can Conte Save his Reputation in 2018?

The 2017/18 season has seen seismic shifts in the English game: Arsenal have finally signed two expensive strikers, Manchester City have raised the bar above and beyond what anyone thought was possible and Chelsea, once the club to beat if your side harboured title hopes, appear on the brink of collapse.

The Blues started 2018 with just two wins in ten games, failing to beat Watford, Norwich (twice), Bournemouth and Leicester during the terrible run. The 4-1 reverse at Watford in early February was the nadir, with the Hornets grabbing their biggest win over Chelsea since May 1986. Humiliated and bruised, the Blues will retreat to their Cobham training ground licking their wounds and wondering where it all went wrong.

The run of results alone would be horrific enough for Chelsea’s expectant support, but the club’s transfer policy through the recent window left a lot to be desired. Whilst their rivals grabbed world-class players such as Alexis Sanchez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Virgil Van Dijk, they settled for veteran striker Olivier Giroud and the fading Ross Barkley.

Ross Barkley by Catherine Kõrtsmik – Flickr: U-19 Croatia vs England. (CC BY 2.0)

They were linked with both Peter Crouch and Andy Carroll, too, underwhelming targets whilst both were in their prime, but thoroughly confusing in 2018. Once upon a time, Stamford Bridge was the home of trailblazers in the transfer market, but now they seem to be settling for even less than second best.

Bookmakers have clearly recognised the trend and that is being reflected in their odds in various markets. They’ve slipped to around 5/6 to finish in the top four, whereas Spurs, currently below them in the league, can be found at 4/7. If the run of form continues in the same vein there’s a real danger that Arsenal might pip them to the final automatic European spot, leaving them waiting on the FA Cup outcome for Europa League football.

They also have the longest odds of the English teams left in the Champions League, they’re placed at around 28/1 to win the tournament whereas both Liverpool and Manchester United can be found at 14/1, with fifth-placed Spurs at 25/1. A double-header against Barcelona is an incredibly tough tie and, having conceded seven in two matches against Watford and Bournemouth, 28/1 almost looks too tight!

Antonio Conte is widely expected to depart at the end of the season and you can find when you get the latest football betting markets and tips. Smart money will certainly be placed on him leaving, but his final destination will depend very much on whether he can turn the form around at Stamford Bridge. A fourth placed finish and the FA Cup might open up a move to Paris, but if his star falls much further in could be a year of redemption in his native Italy, both Milan and Fiorentina will likely be recruiting come the end of May.

With the transfer window now closed, Conte has cast his die and will now be relying on his out of form side to find a rhythm and purpose for the next couple of months. It may well be too late to save his English managerial career, but he desperately needs a turnaround to enhance his future career prospects. Whoever does replace him, they’ll need to spend significant amounts in the summer to rebuild a decidedly mid-table looking squad if they’re to return to the peak of the English game anytime soon.