What can Chelsea fans expect from their new manager?
GOSSIP & RUMOURS By Mirror | March 17th 2016
The former Juventus boss is expected to take over at Stamford Bridge this summer. But what are his strengths and weaknesses?
“Antonio is being drawn back to the pitch, the lure of training every day. That is understandable. He will leave his job as Italy coach after Euro 2016.”
With those words, Italian FA boss Carlo Tavecchio confirmed football’s worst kept secret.
Irascible former midfielder Conte, who has managed Arezzo, Bari, Siena, Atalanta and Juventus, is heading back to club football. And Chelsea is where most people believe he’ll go.
There remains some uncertainty over the deal, with Conte facing criminal trial over a failure to report match fixing back in 2011. But that case should be completed by May and the expectation is that he will take over at Stamford Bridge.
Here is what Blues fans can expect from the 46-year-old:
The first formation that brought Conte success was a daring 4-2-4 at Bari. The system's principal characteristics were two tough men in midfield and very high wingers. It earned the southern club the Serie B title in 2008/09. He also deployed these tactics with Siena in 2010/11.
However Conte couldn't replicate it when he joined Juventus in 2011. The club had purchased smooth operator Andrea Pirlo and there was no place for the Italian playmaker in the 4-2-4.
So in came a solid, reliable 3-5-2. Ultra reliable in fact, because Juventus won the Scudetto without losing a single match in 2011/12 and only conceding 20 goals.
He adapted it occasionally, but on the whole his breath-taking era at Juve, which consisted of three consecutive championships, was built on three at the back.
But maybe the less tactical, more cavalier nature of the Premier League might mean a return to the 4-2-4.
Need a pat on the back? Enjoy an arm around the shoulder? Don't join a team coached by Conte. He is the proverbial sergeant-major.
He lays down the law and players like it or lump it. The fiery little fella doesn't suffer fools gladly. Look at the way he axed Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano from the Italy squad.
Sport Mediaset commentator Gianluca Prudenti says: "When he arrived at Juve, Conte told the players if they wanted to win, they only had to do one thing: do what he told them to."
The Juventus dressing room was a notoriously intense place between 2011 and 2014. He demanded 100 per cent focus, 100 per cent of the time. Winning was the only thing on his mind. While that is admirable, it exhausted the players.
And it is no coincidence Massimiliano Allegri's more laid-back approach took the Bianconeri to a whisker of winning the treble last season.
But perhaps after the malaise of this season, Roman Abramovic wants a wild-eyed, rompipalle (ball-breaker) barking at the squad all day.
Giovanni Trapattoni, who gave Conte his break as a Juve player in 1991, said: “Antonio is permanently angry like I was at such a young age. It’s a good sign.”
But any Blues stars getting nervous reading this will be interested to know as well as tough training sessions they might see a few more films. During his stint in the Atalanta dugout in 2009/10 Conte took the squad to the cinema every Saturday as a bonding exercise.
This is another area in which Conte differs radically to Allegri, who was also linked to the Stamford Bridge job. While the latter famously makes do with what he has got, Conte will want funds. He will ask to bring in expensive players.
Disagreement over transfers wasn't the only reason he walked away from Juve, but it played a part. He had his targets, some of them costly, but the directors had other ideas.
This point of contention produced one of his most famous phrases about the Champions League and the Turin club's spending power: "You can't eat in a €100 restaurant if you only have €10."
He certainly won't go hungry with Chelsea's resources behind him. The fact that the Blues need a major overhaul will suit and excite Conte.
The former Italy international never got to grips with the Champions League, exiting the competition in the quarter-finals and the group stage in his two attempts. He also guided the Italian champions to the Europa League semi-final.
Not a hideous record, but not sparkling. The tournament vexed Conte so much he even abandoned his tried and trusted 3-5-2 a few times, picking a 4-4-2. It didn't work.
Then there's that court case. Conte is charged with sporting fraud for not reporting the fixing of the match between his Siena side and Albinoleffe in Serie B in 2011. He – and Chelsea – will be hoping that blows over well before Euro 2016.