After a disappointing 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on Monday, the focus for Tottenham Hotspur has probably shifted slightly. Spurs will know prior to their match whether or not their title chances are still on life support or have been read their last rites. Either way, there is still work to be done in these final three matches as Spurs attempt to solidify their standing in the table just behind Leicester City. With Spurs facing the task of breaking a 24-match winless streak at Stamford Bridge, I sat down with David from We Ain't Got No History to talk about Chelsea's tumultuous season, their new manager, and what's in the future for the West London club.
CFC: It’s been a bit of a roller coaster season for Chelsea. What happened that caused the collapse in the first half? Was it all pointing back to Mourinho or were there deeper issues at the club?
WAGNH: It’s been one stomach-churning low after another, as the supports crumbled and a few cars even flew off the track. What exactly happened is unclear and may remain that way for a long time. Mourinho’s certainly carries a large portion of the blame with some of his decisions and behaviors, but the players are hardly blameless (though unlike the coach, un-fireable) and there’s a good chance that there was palpable discord behind the scenes as well between Mourinho (and his loyal staff) and the rest of the club leadership who advise Abramovich. Ill-advised transfer and training camp decisions in the summer came back to bite the squad in the fall when all players seemed to lose form at the same time. Mourinho seemed to run out of ideas and retreated into his self preservation mode, lashing out at anyone and anything he happened to see. Eventually, Chelsea pulled the trigger with the club barely hanging on at the edge of the relegation zone. It was a desperate and untimely move — it would’ve made more sense to fire him earlier (with top 4 still in sight) or not fire him at all (surely, we would’ve avoided relegation still) — but it is what it is.
C: Chelsea have their man for next season in Antonio Conte. What kind of changes do you expect under the new boss?
W: In many ways, Conte sounds like a combination of some of Mourinho’s best qualities (motivation, discipline, smart tactics, etc) with a touch of youthful, attacking emphasis. The ideal vision is something like a return to last season’s dominance, combined with building a squad based on homegrown talents from the Academy. That might sound too good to be true, and it probably will be, but for now, there’s plenty of hope of better things to come. There’s a story told by Andre Pirlo of Conte’s first day at Juventus, a team coming off of back-to-back 7th place finishes in the Serie A. Conte walked into the gym, all fire and brimstone and "walking like a viper", turned to the players and said "This squad, dear lads, is coming off two consecutive seventh-place finishes. It’s crazy. Shocking. I am not here for this, so it’s time to stop being crap." So yeah, we’re hoping it’s also time for Chelsea to stop being crap.
C: Speaking of next season, who do you expect to be sold and who stays?
W: The media expects massive changes, but I think that’s unlikely. It does look like we will not be offering John Terry, Mr. Chelsea and the last of the Chelsea Old Guard a new contract, which certainly would be the end of an era (though whether he’d be a big loss on the pitch is debatable). There are rumblings of long-serving John Obi Mikel heading out, while head-scratching loan signings Falcao and Pato will probably be let go (though there are rumblings of Pato staying on as a backup). Rumors of Hazard, Courtois, Costa, et al. leaving are overblown; if any of our big name young stars goes, it’s possibly Oscar, who’s wanted in Italy and China and has largely not lived up to his promise of four years ago.
C: How much money do you expect Roman to offer in a failed bid for Harry Kane?
W: I think we’ve learned our lessons in trying to negotiate with Daniel Levy.
C: I know we’re probably beating a dead horse here, but what in the world happened to Eden Hazard this season?
W: Any reason you can think of, both physical and mental, is probably a valid answer.
C: So….Matt Miazga: Has he supplanted John Terry as the greatest defender in the universe yet?
W: John Terry has already been supplanted as the greatest defender in the universe some time ago.
C: All joking aside, what is the expectation for the young American defender?
W: He’s already proven more useful and perhaps better than Papy Djilobodji, so the sky’s the limit at this point. Having someone other than Hiddink control his playing time and future will probably be useful as well.
C: It’s a bit irrelevant now, given that Leicester are probably going to win the title before the final week, but do you think Chelsea would have tanked that final week to prevent Spurs from winning the league?
W: Depends on who you mean by Chelsea. I hear Roman’s butler plays a pretty mean defensive midfield, plus people always go on about how we don’t play the kids.
C: Do you think that maybe, just this once, you guys could roll over for us on Monday?
[Writer's Note: If you expected any other answer, I don't know what to tell you.]
C: What’s your prediction for Monday’s match?
W: 2-0, good guys.
Thank you to David from We Ain't Got No History for sitting down with us ahead of Monday's match. We did the same thing for him over at their site, so be sure to check it out as well.