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The Warm-Up: It's all going wrong for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, but is he bothered?

The Warm-Up: It’s all going wrong for Conte, but is he bothered?

06/02/2018 at 08:30Updated 06/02/2018 at 16:12

Plus: Lallana goes west, Wayne Rooney is good on TV and another legendary birthday

TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Watford blitz Chelsea, Conte on the brink – does he care?

It might be all over by the time you read this. At the time of writing Antonio Conte is still Chelsea manager, but after their significant gubbing by a terrific Watford on Monday night, he might not be for much longer.

We must first offer hats off to Watford, who were terrific and forced as many mistakes as Chelsea made on their own: Gerard Deulofeu and Abdoulaye Doucoure in particular were terrific, and the best you can say is that they deserved at least their 4-1 win, if not better.

Pedro-Mariappa (Chelsea-Watford)

Pedro-Mariappa (Chelsea-Watford)Getty Images

But this is a familiar process with Chelsea: success, then things start to unravel, and when they start they don’t stop, and everything becomes a bit of a farce. The trouble is that there’s such a formula to the way things go for them now, that the players must see it coming from a mile off, and once they know that the manager is heading for the door, it might become a self-serving exercise in self-preservation.

This latest defeat certainly looked like that. From the calamitous performance of Tiemoue Bakayoko, when his sending off felt more like a mercy dismissal from Mike Dean, saving him from further humiliation, to the heinously passive defensive performance by their entire defence, this reeked of a Chelsea side who simply weren’t bothered anymore. Just waiting for the next guy to come in.

Thing is though, does Antonio Conte really care? Word is he’s going to leave in the summer anyway, so if he’s dismissed now then he might just be handed some fat stacks of cash for something he was going to do anyway. “I’m not worried about my job,” he said. “I work every day, and I give 120 per cent. OK? If this is enough, it’s OK. Otherwise, the club can take a different decision. But I’m not worried.”

And not really bothered, by the sounds of things.

Lallana goes west

Adam Lallana has endured an irritating season, injuries keeping him out for long spells, and perhaps most frustratingly now as it would seem to be the natural time for him to step up into Philippe Coutinho’s boots.

But he’s on his way back from another injury, and on Monday night he turned out for Liverpool’s Under-23s side against Tottenham’s equivalent: just a light tune-up, maybe 60-70 low-key minutes to get the blood flowing again, before the more serious business of first-team football can be contemplated.

Yeah, didn’t entirely go to plan. At some point in the whole process Spurs youngster George Marsh went up for a header with Lallana in a manner that displeased him, and for whatever reason Lallana then, well, lost the plot, grabbed his opponent round the head and was promptly sent off.

How, exactly, does one explain that? Frustration, perhaps? General sense of dissatisfaction with the world? A continuing protest against the refereeing decisions of Jon Moss? Even for Liverpool fans, that’s taking things just a wee bit too far.

Winter break ahoy in England?

Most places take a breather in the winter. Seems sensible, right? In the middle of the season when it’s getting a bit much for everyone, just to have a bit of a rest, then go again as spring approaches.

Gareth Southgate’s England will play behind closed doors in Croatia (Nick Potts/PA)

Gareth Southgate’s England will play behind closed doors in Croatia (Nick Potts/PA)PA Sport

It looks like that could be happening in England too, as the next round of TV rights bundles will apparently carry a clause that states a winter break is being considered, before 2022.

Will it merely give England one less excuse for their latest limp elimination from a major tournament? Will it finally convince managers who think the English are nuts for playing straight through the winter that to pipe down about it? Will it help at all?

The Premier League said in a statement to the BBC: “The Premier League has been in discussions with the FA and EFL for several months regarding the challenges of the increasingly congested English football calendar and ways in which we can work together to ease fixture congestion while also giving players a mid-season break.

“Provided space can be found in the calendar, we are open to this in principle and will continue constructive discussions with our football stakeholders to seek a workable solution.”

IN OTHER NEWS

Good morning, to Mr Mike ‘Box Office’ Dean.

IN THE CHANNELS

Well, who knew Wayne Rooney, who appeared as a pundit for Sky on Monday night, would be quite good? Tales of disagreeing with Roy Keane over an episode of X-Factor, believing he was the best player at Everton when he was 16 and surprisingly naming Carlos Tevez as his favourite strike partner. It was all the most lovely stuff.

But really we should have known. Those that have spent time with him in private will tell you he’s thoughtful, smart, and basically everything that his prevalent public image is not.

HAT TIP

"People think they know Harry Kane. And yet, if his story teaches us anything, it’s to nurture a healthy scepticism for our initial instincts. Kane scored his 100th league goal against Liverpool on Sunday, the latest chapter in a remarkable tale of self-made excellence, and a reminder that great players are made and not born. Aged just 24, Kane’s unique combination of pedigree and potential could yet turn him into one of the great strikers, not just of the Premier League era, but of English football."

RETRO CORNER

Yesterday saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar celebrate the happiest of returns. Today it’s…erm…Darren Bent. But that’s good too! Here he is scoring a screamer against Liverpool.

COMING UP

Some FA Cup replays for you. Birmingham v Huddersfield? Millwall v Rochdale? Swansea v Notts County? Hmmm. Maybe go to the pictures or something.

Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by…erm…Jack Lang? We’ll level with you: the schedule is a bit up in the air at the moment.

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