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Know Your Opponent: Q&A with We Ain’t Got No History

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Antonio Conte, Ross Barkley’s whereabouts, and Mario Odyssey all make the interview.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Arguably the most crucial match of the season will be played on Easter Sunday at Stamford Bridge between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. The race for the Top Four is as hot as ever, especially with that fourth spot now guaranteed a group stage slot. Spurs sit five points ahead of Chelsea, and while Spurs haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since 1990 in the league, making the task all the more daunting.

Joining us for Know Your Opponent this week is David from We Ain’t Got No History. We discuss Antonio Conte’s future, if Eden Hazard is actually leaving this summer, and something about a trip to Idaho involving Ross Barkley.

CFC: Thanks for giving PSG Antonio Conte. This isn’t really a question or anything because it keeps Poch’s head from being turned, which I’m sure you wouldn’t have minded.

WAGNH: As long as none of us end up with projectificating with AVB again. That said, last we heard, it’s Neymar who’s calling the shots at PSG, and he prefers Luis Enrique over Antonio “work work work work” Conte.

In recent weeks, Conte has abandoned the 3-4-1-2 shape with Fabregas playing behind two striker-types and instead gone back to the 3-4-2-1 with Fabregas partnering Kante in midfield behind two attacking mids and a striker. How is that change working out so far?

The 3-5-2 not really working out for Conte has been one of this season’s most drawn-out and painful lessons, in part thanks to Morata and Bakayoko (the summer’s two major signings) not living up to expectations and price tags just yet, but the reversion to last year’s shape has also been forced by the stellar form of Willian and the lack of reliable options in midfield. Chelsea look much more comfortable in the 3-4-3 (with or without a proper striker), even if the results haven’t quite reflected that.

What are the biggest factors in the dip in form from last season to this?

As usual, it’s a combination of factors, from the Board on down through the head coach to the players, but perhaps the biggest problem has simply been shot selection and conversion. Chelsea are shooting at a rate comparable to, if not exceeding last year’s efforts, but are scoring far less. Sprinkle in plenty of actual and media-driven drama, plus improvement in the rest of the top six (except Arsenal), and presto change-o, palpable discord.

Sooooooooo.......how does it feel seeing Michy lighting it up for Dortmund while Morata and Giroud trip over themselves for the most part?

We’re mostly happy for Michy since he’s eminently likable and he was getting no love (let alone minutes) from Conte.

Is Eden Hazard gone this summer? It seems like Chelsea fans are slowly moving back to “Hazard is a rat” mode.

Hazard has been leaving for Real Madrid for almost six seasons now. As before, he’s going nowhere.

Did you guys actually buy Barkley and have proof of it?

I was in Twin Falls, ID a few days ago and decided that what my 13-hour road trip home needed and needed right now were the sounds of Mario:Odyssey being played on the Switch. So in a sudden rush, we went through the steps to purchase it in the online store, only to realize that not only was it a massive multi-GB download over dodgy LTE, it needed a system update, too. Turns out that literally five minutes down the road was a Best Buy, who had the physical game in stock. Thus we ended up with a $120 Mario. (Minus whatever I can get in resale for the physical copy. Anyone want one?)

(Writer’s note: Actually I could use one once Zelda is done eating my social life...)

It sounds like a possible tug of war between Arsenal and Chelsea for the services of Thomas Tuchel (though someone should probably tell Wenger about it first). Would Tuchel check all the boxes for you or do you have someone else in mind to take over?

Tuchel is certainly the flavor of the month, but his history of falling out with upper management and players sounds like Mourinho and Conte all over again. While we’ve won the league with both (hard to complain about that!), if Chelsea want “real change” in this regard, we actually need to develop a consistent vision from the top down and get a manager who would buy into that vision (and is then given time to develop success). Barring that unlikely development, I’d rather just keep Conte.

United, Pool, Spurs and Chelsea are in a four way dance for three Champions League spots. Ultimately, who do you think is odd man out?

The loser of this game.

How do you expect Chelsea to line up this weekend?

No surprises (3-4-3): Courtois | Rudiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Moses | Hazard, Giroud, Willian

Prediction:

2-1, good guys.