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Low energy Conte: Why Chelsea fans deserve better than messy compo standoff

COMMENT: He's off. It's been decided. And he wants it. Even if he lifts the FA Cup on Saturday. Antonio Conte's tenure as Chelsea manager is over.

The trip to Wembley is an outlier. Chelsea could well defeat Manchester United. But that will owe more to the players' own individual motivation than any inspiration from the manager. Think 2012, Munich and Roberto di Matteo.

No, Sunday at St James' was the real thing. The players flat, lethargic. The manager uninterested, even uncouth. It was a poor, pathetic display. A sad end to a relationship which has seen the manager and his players grow apart.

Need to know Conte's feelings about his job? Just take a look at the man on the touchline at Newcastle. No energy. No interest. No collar and tie. No polished shoes. He was unshaven. In a tracksuit. Like he'd just rolled out of bed. How you inspire young men looking like that, only Conte knows. But it didn't work Sunday.

Your typical end of season dead rubber, the apologists will argue. Nothing to gain. The players had to protect themselves for the Cup final, others will claim. But spare a thought for those in the away section yesterday.

Up before dawn for Stamford Bridge buses at 6:30am. Chelsea fans traveled 6-7 hours Sunday morning to the Northeast. And how was that commitment rewarded? A manager in his bloody lounge suit leading a group of players incapable of rousing themselves out of third gear. Even at the final whistle, Eden Hazard had to intervene and drag reluctant teammates to the Leazes End to acknowledge those who faced another seven hour trek back home.

On the performance, it can be argued the manager has lost the dressing room. But that's lazy. Cliched. Indeed, to lose a locker room, you actually need a clique of players to lead the revolt. And those senior types have long gone.

The breakdown has come from circumstance. The need for this Chelsea squad to be renewed. The reality is over the last 12 months, Conte's greatest strengths as a manager are no longer what is needed for this group of players.

As he did with Juventus, Conte's at his best working with a senior, experienced squad. Aurelio de Laurentiis, Napoli's movie making president, described him last week as a "colonel". It's a fitting description.

Conte is a finisher, rather than a builder. He can take a senior group of players. Challenge them. Shake them. And drive them forward. But the Italian has no great track record of developing young players and bringing them through. And as he has overseen the transformation of this Chelsea squad, he's found what has made him a great manager fall short when working with this current, youthful group of players.

As De Laurentiis stated, Conte would be "perfect" for his Napoli. The Azzurri again falling just short of ending Juventus' seven year domination of the Scudetto.

Antonio Conte would be a perfect colonel to ensure the rules are respected. He is a friend and lets nobody take a breather," said ADL. Tough. Disciplined. Ruthless. That's Conte. "Perfect" for an experienced group of players, like ADL has at Napoli, needing that final bit of gold-dust to get them over the line.

It's significant that since the turn of the year, the best feelgood stories for Chelsea have involved two players playing away from the club. Kenedy and Michy Batshuayi have produced career best form at Newcastle United and Borussia Dortmund, respectively, this season. They didn't just prove they could compete at that level, but actually made major contributions with their loan teams.

The pair have thrived away from Chelsea. Away from Conte. This isn't about personalities. It's about a skills set. And the Italian's just isn't what this current group of Chelsea players require. Kenedy and Batshuayi are proof of that.

As mentioned, it's already been decided. If Conte was to offer his resignation today, Roman Abramovich would snap his hand off. And the Italian would gladly reciprocate if Abramovich told him he was sacked. Sunday's display, unfortunately, had the hints of compo stand off. With millions at stake, it's all about who blinks first.

This isn't Chelsea. Not Abramovich's Chelsea. Well, it shouldn't be. And the biggest losers weren't the millionaire players. Nor the manager angling for his massive payout.

It was those who from dawn to dusk spent over half their day trekking up and down the country. Those supporters deserve better. Much better. As does the Chelsea name, because nothing on display at St James' lived up to it on Sunday.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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