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Friday June 15 2018
Conte and Sarri underappreciated

Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri find themselves pushed to the sidelines and vastly underappreciated by clubs and fans, writes Cronan Yu.

“Chelsea found the right way to be strong together,” Antonio Conte said with a smile etched right across his face. Chelsea had just won the Premier League in emphatic fashion, aided by a remarkable 13-match unbeaten streak between October 2016 and January 2017, and the Italian maestro struggled to contain his euphoria whilst promising that the club would build on the success.

Just 12 months on, Conte’s job is on the line and the former Juventus boss is expected to get the sack, his position largely untenable. Ironically, his greatest sin of all was toiling to the summit of English football in his inaugural season at the club off the back of a 10th-placed finish thanks, in large, to a combination of injuries, or lack thereof, kind fixtures and good fortune.

Perhaps the writing had been on the wall all along: of the three previous Italian managers to have won the Premier League, that is, excluding the 48-year-old, every single one of them had been sacked in the following season. Carlo Ancelotti paid the price in 2010-11 with a second-placed finish despite winning the domestic double in his first season, Roberto Mancini was sacked a year after his 2011-12 triumph after finishing 11 points behind Manchester United and Claudio Ranieri was shown the exit in February 2017 mere months after leading Leicester to a fairy-tale triumph.

By all accounts, Conte is set to follow suit with Real Madrid’s recent surprise appointment of Julen Lopetegui as Coach only delaying the inevitable. But to simply suggest that last season’s failures were all of Conte’s doing is unfair, and inaccurate too.

Conte, of course, is far from blameless. His failure to improve upon his innovative 3-4-3 formation, used to great effect in their title-winning season, proved to be their greatest undoing. His personal relationships with players has been cause for concern too, with Eden Hazard and David Luiz amongst others said to be unhappy with the manager.

In amidst all of that, the former Italy CT has had to utilise a side lacking in depth. Ever since both Manchester clubs began to stretch their financial muscle, Roman Abramovich has opted to be more conservative in his spending. Where Conte identified Radja Nainggolan and Arturo Vidal as targets, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – arguably one of the worst signings in the Russian’s time at the club – arrived.

With the club spending just £70m since Conte’s arrival, coupled with that fact that his record in the Premier League stands at an admirable 67.1% win rate, third behind Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant, and it’s not so far-fetched to suggest that Conte has been underappreciated. Winning the Premier League and an FA Cup title, with limited resources, would be considered a success at any other English club.

If the latest rumours are to be believed, though, Conte’s successor will come in the form of another Italian tactician – Maurizio Sarri – whose contributions have also been greatly undervalued.

It should come as little surprise that Sarri’s style has caught the eye of Europe’s elite, especially those of Abramovich, who has long desired that Chelsea develop a free-flowing, attacking style of play.

And although 59-year-old’s insistence on short, quick passing and high pressing has won many a fan over, his inability to transform style into substance has seen his relationship with President Aurelio De Laurentiis deteriorate, openly criticising the tactician for his failure to rotate the squad, believing that fatigue eventually cost his club a Serie A triumph, and a Europa League title too.

“He’s one of the absolute best,” Pep Guardiola said in praise of his counterpart. We judge people on what they’ve won, but the football played by Napoli this season has been out of this world. He did very well, seeing Napoli play is a spectacle. If he comes to the Premier League it’d be a pleasure to face him.”

Trophyless as he may be, Sarri’s philosophy has brought life back into a league where pragmatism prevails over tactical innovation. It’s perhaps only when he is gone that Serie A, and Napoli for that matter, provide Sarri with the recognition he deserves.

Have your say...
Both Conte and Sarri are overrated! Neither is flexible in their tactical approach neither has a plan B! When things start going wrong they are caught like a deer in headlights starring into the vast nothing trying to explain their shortcomings. I looked at Conte when he left Juve he said that he couldn't go further in CL because Juve were not spending then Allegri arrives and reaches the CL final with an almost identical side. Sarri blamed the schedule etc. for his shortcomings! OVERRATED!
on the 18th June, 2018 at 8:33pm
because ADL, Don Carlo don't stay along at napoli
on the 16th June, 2018 at 11:39pm
Wojtek Szczesny was underappreciated. Juve got Wojtek as a no 1 AS Roma goalkeeper paying FC Arsenal 10-12M EUR, now FC Napoli willing to pay 35M for AS Roma no 2 Alison Becker or no 0 Arsenal pensioner Cech. I can't understand ADL nor Sarri.
on the 16th June, 2018 at 4:29pm
Bring Conte back to Juve? Are you serious? I don't want to have another surgery in my eyes nor to be knocked out in the group stage.
on the 16th June, 2018 at 12:13am
If they really are as good as you say they are then Conte wouldn't be holding on to a job he doesn't want and Sarri would already have a new job. You'd think that Perez would give both of them a call istead of calling Allegri and then poaching the Spain's coach days before WC started. Not only are they not underappreciated, i think that being as inflexible as they both are they're overappreciated.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 1:46pm
Sarri isn't underappreciated. He gave up everything to win the league, then he didn't win the league. Defending a coach that ruined the clubs season before January by with an embarrassing group stage exit is just wrong. Thing is, they should have gone on to win it after beating Juve, but the Fiorentina demolition right after shows his lack of real tactical nous. Plus putting that much faith into the likes of Reina and Koulibaly is idiotic. He's not a great coach, he got a good squad and did OK.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 10:00am
What a way to begin an article correctly, then end it with absolutely tripe.

Playing beautiful football can ALSO get your trophies - they're not mutually exclusive! Sarri, what the people cannot see, is a 2-bit tactician who has no idea how to ADAPT. He can only attack, attack, attack - reminds you of Zdeněk Zeman - but are garbage otherwise.

That is NOT what football is... When you realize you have met an unstoppable force, you have to try to become the immovable object. Trying to hit someone just as hard as they hit you, even when you don't have the same dexterity or strength, will only end badly. That is EXACTLY why Sarri has won 0 tituli, and he will never win anything noteworthy in his life.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 8:23am
Yes, Conte is under appreciated. Sarri on the other hand is a victim of De Laurentiis mafia methods. It's called intimidation communication, look it up! One thing is Sarri stalling on contract negotiations, another that he is held hostage with his contract.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 6:14am
Come back to Juve, Don Conte.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 1:58am

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