Chelsea manager Antonio Conte could be clinging to his job by a thread after overseeing a wretched run of form recently.
A run that has seen the Blues win just two of their last ten games in all competitions has culminated in chastening defeats, firstly in a 3-0 reversal at home to Bournemouth last week, followed up by Monday night’s 4-1 capitulation at the hands of Watford.
The run has seen them crash out of the Carabao Cup at the semi-final stage and fall 19 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City. Indeed, their place in the top four is now seriously at stake.
Despite winning the Premier League title last season, Conte will find that previous success doesn’t tend to count for much when it comes to Roman Abramovich, and his body language after the hammering at Vicarage Road suggested that he knows he is now fighting for his job at Stamford Bridge.
Should that happen, Abramovich and the Chelsea hierarchy have a decision to make. While they would have some options available to them now, they would have more in the summer. So even if they do dispense with Conte in the coming days or weeks, do they appoint an interim manager with a view to a more long-term appointment at the end of the season?
If they do sack Conte, we take a look at the some of the options available to the club.
Luis Enrique. The former Barcelona manager is already among the bookies’ favourites, and he would be widely regarded as one of the best managers not currently in a job. Enrique enjoyed a trophy-laden three years at Camp Nou, winning two leagues, two cups and the Champions League, before walking away in 2017.
While there is currently no timeframe set for Enrique’s return to management, Chelsea is a project that could be of interest to him – though he seems more likely to wait until the summer when the club’s position in or out of the top four will be confirmed.
Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian has made no secret of the fact that he would like to return to the club where he won the Premier League and FA Cup double in 2010. Ancelotti’s second season ended with the Blues finishing second in the table, and Abramovich duly responded by swinging the axe.
Like Enrique, Ancelotti is currently out of a job since being sacked by Bayern Munich earlier in the season, though the three-time Champions League-winning coach’s desire to return to management would probably see him more favourable to taking the job as soon as it became available, rather than waiting until the summer.
Zinedine Zidane. Like Conte, Zidane is finding that retaining a title is easier said than done. Having delivered a league title and two Champions Leagues in the space of two years, the Frenchman should be untouchable, and yet they are so far behind Barcelona this year that his job is under threat.
An early Champions League exit at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain next month could spell the end of Zidane’s spell at the Bernabeu – if that happens, however, expect some of Europe’s top clubs to pounce.
Maurizio Sarri. Sarri’s star is very much on the rise in Serie A having guided Napoli to consecutive top-three finishes. As it stands, his side are top of the league in Italy and the 1-0 loss at home to Juventus remains their only defeat in what has been a fantastic season for the club as they look to end their 28-year wait for a Scudetto, Reports in Italy have suggested that Sarri’s current release clause is just 8m and if that is the case, then they will do well to offer him new terms before the likes of Chelsea come calling.
Diego Simeone. Though Simeone has always enjoyed a strong relationship with Atletico, rumours surrounding his future at the club have never been far away. The 2014 La Liga winner and twice Champions League finalist seemed destined to leave the Wanda Metropolitano last summer before ultimately signing a new contract, though the Spanish side know that he will not be there forever. Recent reports have suggested that Simeone would much rather take the reins at Man United if he were to make the move to England, though that could change if Chelsea come to him with a firm offer.
Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has seen his reputation enhanced since joining Celtic in the summer of 2016, far above even that which convinced FSG to give him the Liverpool job in 2012. Though the end of his time at Anfield will still taint him in the eyes of some in England, his time at Anfield overall can probably still be viewed a success. Combine that with going the entirety of last season unbeaten with Celtic domestically, then the former Swansea man will find himself getting linked with more Premier League roles in the summer.
He also has prior knowledge of Chelsea, having worked under Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari in roles managing the youth and reserve sides from 2004 to 2008.
Frank Lampard. The biggest risk on the list, but one of John Terry or Frank Lampard almost seem destined to be given the job at some point, such is their synonymity with Chelsea. With Terry still currently playing at Aston Villa, Lampard could well thro his hat into the ring to try and ‘save’ the club’s season. His lack of prior managerial experience will be a major mark against him, but Abramovich’s fondness for the Stamford Bridge legend could see the former England international fast-tracked into the job.