Antonio Conte has shown many things this past season. He has proved he is capable of foresight and changing when necessary- in doing so winning a Premier League few thought possible in August and obtaining a title many thought belonging to his predecessor.
If Chelsea beat Arsenal at Wembley on Saturday then it will be the club’s second league and cup double, the first having been won by Conte’s compatriot Carlo Ancelotti in 2010. Chelsea looked very different then, in fact, it looks likely that not one member of that team will start against Arsene Wenger’s side this time.
Should it happen, the achievement will also be different. Ancelotti’s double-winning team was the best in the country from the beginning of the 2009/10 season. Emboldened by Manchester United losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in the summer transfer window, they started the domestic campaign as favourites for the Premier League and FA Cup. Ancelotti retained much of the team that made Jose Mourinho Chelsea’s most successful ever manager, a squad with the experience to dominate England one last time.
Conte’s team, and that is how we must think of it, would do it following Chelsea’s worst season in a generation. It would be an undeniable sign of Chelsea’s domestic superiority and an incredible personal achievement by Antonio Conte, putting to rest any argument that his side had fell upon the title by virtue of having no European football to distract them.
Furthermore, he would have done it without FA fines, by not provoking the contempt of his peers but by sheer hard work and tactical nous. Chelsea’s players, by all accounts, have never worked harder and his decision to switch to a three-man defence was the bedrock of a record winning run that took the title away from their rivals. His sideline antics have been no more and no less than expressions of pure joy and an incomparable will to win.
Who thought he could so seamlessly move John Terry, near enough a deity at Stamford Bridge, from the first team to the exit door, who knew Victor Moses was capable of such quality so often?
In less than a year Conte has built a team that appear as brothers on the pitch, who together have treated the country to some of the greatest performances seen in the Premier League era. They are a team to revere and champions to be celebrated. If he wins on Saturday he will matched the first season success of two of Chelsea’s greatest managers in modern times. Aesthetically, he will have surpassed both. He will be Chelsea’s greatest.