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Where has Antonio Conte gone wrong at Chelsea?

Chelsea slumped to a 1-0 loss to West Ham on Saturday. The Blues were very unspectacular in their performance following a midweek draw against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. The loss was Chelsea’s fourth of the season, and has practically made a repeat Premier League title completely impossible. Following the team’s loss on Saturday, rumours are swirling that Chelsea have already spoken to former Roma and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique as Antonio Conte’s replacement.

What’s gone wrong for Antonio Conte at Chelsea?

Conte’s man management can be cited as the main difference between his Chelsea side in 2016-17 and this year’s squad. The Blues relied heavily on the goals of the bulldozing Diego Costa a season ago. The Spaniard tallied 20 goals in 34 games.

However, Conte’s decision to force Costa out of the club took a proven goal scorer away from Chelsea’s lineup. The team did replace Costa with Alvaro Morata, who has scored nine goals so far this term. Yet, if Conte could have had both strikers with the club this season, Chelsea would be far less one dimensional than they currently are.

Despite Morata’s goal total in the Premier League, the Spaniard was never deployed as the main striker for any of his previous clubs. Although Morata scored goals for Real Madrid and Juventus, respectively, he was never depended on like Costa was during his Chelsea tenure.

Conte’s second misstep ahead of this season was his insistence that defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic be sold. Conte even went as far to overrule the Chelsea board in the decision to sell Matic. Now at Manchester United, Matic has been a vital cog in the Red Devils’ midfield.

Matic’s replacement, Tiemoue Bakayoko, has arguably been the worst signing of the last transfer window. Bakayoko has gone from one bad match to the next, and Chelsea supporters are begging for the club to get rid of him in January.

Conte’s personnel decisions have been puzzling, and it isn’t any wonder that Chelsea are looking to replace him just a little over six months after he won the Premier League title. If the rumours of Enrique as his replacement are true, he doesn’t seem to be well thought out replacement. While the manager has had success, Chelsea may be better served bringing in someone a bit more familiar with the club.

Chelsea could do better by recalling the services of veteran coach Guus Hiddink. On two previous occasions, Hiddink has stepped in as interim manager. If Conte is sacked, Hiddink could keep the ship steady before a permanent manager is brought in during the offseason. That would be the best time to employ Enrique.

The Blues are still in third place, and will play in the knockout stages of the Champions League. However, former coach Ray Wilkins believes Conte will have a difficult time signing players in January to strengthen the squad.

“When you’re Chelsea, or any top club for that matter, you’re always looking for Champions League calibre players, most of which are already playing for teams in the competition and therefore are registered and won’t be able to play in European competitions for you,” Wilkins told Sky Sports.

“You have to look at teams who have had the unfortunate situation of dropping out of Europe.”

Conte’s clock has been ticking since June when word of Costa leaving gained traction. Now, out of the Premier League title race and the only English team not to win their Champions League group, Conte is nearly out of time at Stamford Bridge.

Who should replace Antonio Conte at Chelsea?