Roman Abramovich has met with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte for lunch on three consecutive days to hold discussions about dismantling the club’s Premier League title-winning squad and completely rebuilding it.
A good start papered over cracks in the Chelsea side that have been horribly exposed by Liverpool and Arsenal in their last two league matches, and it led to reports that Conte’s job could already be under the scrutiny of club owner Abramovich. That isn’t the case, according to The Times, and despite the Russian oligarch spending the last three days at the club’s Cobham training ground, it’s believed that he has been holding talks on how to rebuild the Blues in title challengers.
The majority of the current squad were part of Jose Mourinho’s 2014/15 title-winning side, but their deterioration – along with the failure to sign adequate replacements – has left Chelsea down in eight position in the Premier League table and already eight points behind leaders Manchester City.
After attending the club’s training ground on Monday and Tuesday, Abramovich was again at Chelsea’s training ground on Wednesday where he discussed the current state of the squad with the club owner.
The report adds that Abramovich is sympathetic to Conte’s demands for new players, and understands his frustrations with the club failing to land his transfer targets in the summer beyond the £30m signing of N’Golo Kante from Leicester City. Striker Michy Batshuayi was identified by sporting director Michael Emenalo, while David Luiz and Marcos Alonso arrived as late additions after the club failed to sign Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Alessio Romagnoli from AC Milan.
Arsenal vs Chelsea player ratings
Arsenal vs Chelsea player ratings
1/22 Petr Cech - 6 out of 10
Enjoyed a surprisingly quiet evening against his former club, but stayed alert to save well late on from Batshuayi.
2/22 Hector Bellerin - 7 out of 10
Won the battle on the wing against his compatriot Azpilicueta, and added a fine assist to his clean sheet.
3/22 Shkodran Mustafi - 8 out of 10
Impressed as a physical force in the Arsenal defence, giving as good as he got from Costa - and better.
4/22 Laurent Koscielny - 7 out of 10
His partnership with Mustafi continued to blossom as he led the backline with authority.
5/22 Nacho Monreal - 7 out of 10
Quietly efficient as he kept Willian under wraps for long periods.
6/22 Francis Coquelin - 5 out of 10
Battled well early in the game, but had to be replaced after coming off worst in a fierce 50-50 challenge with Kante.
7/22 Santi Cazorla - 7 out of 10
Although he tired towards the end, the Spaniard dictated the midfield with his creative play.
8/22 Theo Walcott - 7 out of 10
Once again worked tirelessly for the team. The Walcott of this season is like a new signing for Arsenal.
9/22 Mesut Ozil - 8 out of 10
Given time and space to play by Chelsea, the German bossed events at the Emirates. His turn and run in the build-up to his goal was sublime.
10/22 Alex Iwobi - 8 out of 10
An excellent display that showcased the youngster as a real attacking threat. Demonstrated awareness of his teammates around him.
11/22 Alexis Sanchez - 8 out of 10
Scorer of a well-taken first, his assist for Ozil was just as good. Leading the line much better than last month.
12/22 Thibaut Courtois - 5 out of 10
Offered little protection by his defence, he still suffered a number of breakdowns in communication with the outfield players.
13/22 Branislav Ivanovic - 5 out of 10
Constantly troubled by Iwobi's energetics, time continues to catch up with Chelsea's experienced defender.
14/22 Gary Cahill - 4 out of 10
Directly responsible for some awful defending, most notably when he lost possession in the lead up to Arsenal's first.
15/22 David Luiz - 5 out of 10
His partnership with Cahill needs work - and a lot of it. However, he did show an ability to pick a pass when going forward.
16/22 Cesar Azpilicueta - 6 out of 10
Often outnumbered as Walcott and Bellerin doubled up, he had more joy when moved to right wing-back in the second half.
17/22 N'Golo Kante - 4 out of 10
An unrecognisable performance given last season's heroics. Second to many loose balls and showed an unwillingness to track back when out of possession.
18/22 Willian - 5 out of 10
Went close to netting with a shot wide in the first half, he was otherwise kept quiet by Monreal and was eventually subbed.
19/22 Cesc Fabregas - 6 out of 10
Booed constantly on his return to the Emirates, he remained calm and played some fine passes. Surprisingly subbed when clearly performing better than others.
20/22 Nemanja Matic - 5 out of 10
Struggled to deal with the attacking runs from deep of Ozil, Iwobi and Walcott.
21/22 Eden Hazard - 5 out of 10
Showed flashes of skill and creatively, but more often it was his inability to help out at the back that was highlighted.
22/22 Diego Costa - 6 out of 10
Offered no service by his teammates who simply didn't play to his strengths. Never stop battling for possession.
The performances of late – particularly the dismal showing against Arsenal – has convinced Conte that the problems in the Chelsea dressing room lie deeper than last season’s falling out between Mourinho and the squad. Conte has raised fears of complacency among his players that has developed a player-power culture at Stamford Bridge, according to the report, and the plays thought to be at risk include Nemanja Matic, Oscar, Gary Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and vice-captain Branislav Ivanovic.
There were claims that Conte was already under pressure when Chelsea suffered the 2-1 defeat by Liverpool two weeks ago, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, and Abramovich is willing to back the Italian – whose record goes before him with three straight Serie A successes – to overhaul the Chelsea squad and usher in a new era at Stamford Bridge.Reuse content