The Dugout: Why Antonio Conte can restore Chelsea’s reputation

The 2016/17 Premier League season is fast approaching and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and here, ‘The Dugout‘ will explain why Antonio Conte can restore Chelsea’s reputation…

Chelsea fans will be itching for the new season to start after a dismal 2015/16 campaign which saw them finish in their lowest Premier League position since 1996. Antonio Conte’s debut season looks set to be a tough task, he took on the role with the knowledge he needed to reignite a side full of under-performing world-class players.

For the first time since 2003 Chelsea will not be playing in the Champions League, although a tough one for the fans to take, there should be no excuses for a lack of focus domestically. Chelsea should be able to compete to their full potential in the new campaign and under a manager with a fierce reputation it is going to be a interesting one to watch.

Chelsea may have only won the Premier League just two seasons ago and still have many players from that squad for the new season, but this is a completely difference experience for them, fighting back to the top is an extremely difficult task as Manchester United have found in recent seasons. The appointment of Conte looks to be very astute and given how his Italy side performed at the European Championships, a squad regarded to be one of their weakest for many years, we can expect elements of the unexpected this season.

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So why will Antonio Conte restore Chelsea’s reputation?

Passion: 

It is no secret how passionate Conte is as a coach. His emphatic celebrations and reactions on the touchline at Euro 2016 spoke volumes for how much winning means to him. He is a manager with a winning mentality and a reputation to be feared. If someone is not pulling their weight and giving everything for the team, they will know about it.

The Italian is renowned for being respected by his players and his philosophy is simple. “I always give education and respect but I demand the same, for all the people that work with me. I give them this and I demand this.”

The former Juventus coach added: “This was taught to me by my family, to give education and respect to all people. If I don’t have this, you are asking for trouble, for a problem.

“I love to be with my players, to speak with them, to help them to understand my philosophy, my methods and my thoughts. I love this. Hopefully when the players understand this we have a fantastic relationship.”

Conte’s vision is clear for all to see, work hard and show respect and in return there will be no issues.

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Winning mentality: 

Conte is a winner, it is as simple as that. In his playing days at Juventus he won Serie A five times and then as a manager he famously guided them to three consecutive titles between 2011-2014.

The 46 year old also has an impressive European track record, winning the Champions League, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup all as a player with Juventus. He has already spoken of his disappointment not to be managing Chelsea in Europe’s top competition this season and expects his side to return to the highest level.

Defensive Focus: 

Chelsea’s defence of their Premier League crown last season was nothing short of embarrassing. They conceded 53 goals in their 38 games and this is something Conte will no doubt be looking to improve upon.

Conte’s preferred formation of 3-5-2 served him well during Euro 2016, but he is by no means scared to use differing tactics. Chelsea have been using a 4-2-3-1 formation for a number of seasons now and players have got used to this style.

The Italian means business, he has already strengthened the squad with the signing of N’Golo Kante and rumours are continually flying around that he is looking to sign another central defender.

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Chelsea have had a managerial carousel in the Roman Abramovic era, and whether or not the fans like that, it has bought continued silverware. Conte will be aware he will need to get things right quickly or he could just be another one struck off the list.

After losing his opening friendly as manager Conte found a lot of positives and it is very early days for both the players and the man himself. He has the character and confidence in his ability to get Chelsea back to competing at the highest level but this is by no means an easy task.

Will Conte restore Chelsea’s reputation? Has he got his work cut out with this job?

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Chelsea step up hunt for new manager – talks set for Thursday

Chelsea are understood to be meeting their potential new manager, Antonio Conte, on Thursday for the second time as they don’t want to miss out on another target.

The Guardian reports the Italian national team coach and Chelsea have a reached a key phase in a deal that could see him paid a staggering £6.3 million a year before tax.

The Italian boss has a proven track record – winning Serie A three times on the bounce with Juventus before taking up the role of the national team head coach in 2014.

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Conte could be the ideal candidate for Roman Abramovic as his Italy side qualified for this summer’s European Champions without losing a game.

Chelsea are expected to have a clear out of their underperforming stars this summer and Conte could potentially persuade some of his former players to make the move to the capital and join him in what could be his new challenge.

Would the appointment of Antonio Conte be a good move for Chelsea?

AC Milan midfielder nearing MLS switch with offer “expected”

Another Italian international could be heading for MLS as AC Milan’s Antonio Nocerino is seemingly on the radar of at least one Major League Soccer outfit.

The 30-year-old central midfield enforcer has struggled to play a part in the AC Milan side over the past two seasons and has been sent on three consecutive loan spells to West Ham, Torino and most recently, Parma.

He is currently still in Milan, but with just five months left on his current contract, he will be heading out of the club by the summer at the very latest.

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AC Milan vice president and CEO, Alberto Galliani, has had his say on the future of Nocerino and has interestingly revealed that an offer from MLS “is expected”.

“Antonio Nocerino? He’s the only player heading out, we’re expecting an offer from MLS to arrive and that could be a solution,” Galliani is reported as saying on Monday.

Nocerino would be the third high-profile Italian to join MLS over the past year if a move does come to fruition, as he would follow Sebastian Giovinco and Andrea Pirlo in making the switch stateside.

At 30, he still has a lot to offer and will hope to reignite his career once he escapes the limbo he finds himself in at Milan.

The Juventus academy product captained the Italian U23 side in 2008 as well as the Italian team at the Beijing Olympics during the same year.

He has made a total of 15 international appearances for the Azzurri, but has not played for the national side since November 2012, following his participation in Italy’s Euro 2012 squad.

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It’s unclear which MLS side are reportedly chasing Nocerino, while it is as unclear whether he would join the league as a Designated Player or not.

LA Galaxy are one possible destination, given the fact that they are looking to replace Juninho this offseason following his departure, though Nocerino would have to accept a non-DP role if he were to make that move.

Would Antonio Nocerino be a good signing for MLS? Which club could benefit from his services?

Arsenal closing in on £10m-rated defender – report

Arsenal are readying a £10 million offer for Juventus defender Daniele Rugani, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Arsene Wenger has been heavily tipped to delve into the Arsenal bank account again this summer as he looks to further improve his defensive options.

Italian under-21, Rugani, has played this season for Empoli on loan from parent club Juventus. The Old Lady have been expected to loan him out again for the coming season so he can gain more experience, but Wenger is reportedly looking to tempt them with an offer.

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Rugani is yet to make a senior appearance for Juve and given how strong their defensive options are it is unlikely he would be breaking into the side anytime soon.

The 20-year-old centre-back could be a replacement for Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker and he could learn a lot training and playing alongside Wenger’s current defensive options Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista.

Are Arsenal taking a risk if they sign Daniele Rugani? Or is youth the right option in defence?

International Friendly Preview and Prediction: Italy vs England

Competition: International Friendly – Italy vs. England

Venue: Juventus Stadium, Italy – Tuesday, March 31 – 19:45 BST

Match Odds: Italy 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – England 23/10

Match Preview

England face Italy in Turin on Tuesday night in what is a blockbuster friendly to cap off the international break for the Three Lions.

These two nations have established quite a rivalry over the years. This is a fixture that saw David Beckham captain England for the first time and also saw Paul Ince wear a bloodied head bandage in that famous 0-0 draw in Rome that clinched qualification for the World Cup in 1998 for England.

It’s a fixture that has seen the nations meet four times in major competitions, including last summer’s World Cup as the Italians sealed a 2-1 victory against England in both sides’ opening games.

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But it was a disappointing summer in Brazil for both teams as they crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage behind Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D.

Italy are coming into Tuesday’s game off the back of a 2-2 draw away in Bulgaria on Saturday in their European qualifier, keeping up their impressive record of going unbeaten through their last 45 qualifying fixtures, dating back to 2006.

Debutant Eder scored a late equaliser in Saturday’s draw in Sofia and the Azzurri are now two points off top spot in Group H, behind leaders Croatia who they play next in Zagreb on June 12th.

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Italy’s preparation for the match has been hampered by reported death threats towards manager Antonio Conte. They came after midfielder Claudio Marchisio picked up an injury in training which was said to rule him out for months but that has now been confirmed as weeks. Another blow for Italy is that Gianluigi Buffon missed the Bulgaria match with flu and is a doubt to face England.

For Roy Hodgson, everything is looking fantastic in the Euro 2016 qualifiers after another win left them on 15 points with 15 goals scored following their 4-0 demolition of Lithuania at Wembley on Friday night.

England’s very own debutant Harry Kane scored on his debut for the Three Lions and he could start for against Italy on Tuesday.

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England play Slovenia in their next qualifier on June 14th, and a win against the Italians will only keep boosting the confidence with the team hungry for future success.

England have seen some of their squad from the Lithuania match either head back to their clubs or pick up injuries that have ruled from out of the match against the Italians but the remaining members of the team will want to impress against one of Europe’s top sides.

Team News

Italy will definitely be without Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, while doubts linger over Daniele De Rossi and Gianluigi Buffon. Southampton striker Graziano Pelle will be pushing to start in attack.

For England, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Leighton Baines and James Milner will miss the trip. Ryan Bertrand has been called up as a replacement for Leighton Baines. After his impressive goal on Friday, Tottenham’s Harry Kane will be hopeful of forcing his way into the England starting eleven alongside Wayne Rooney, who needs just two goals to match Bobby Charlton’s all-time England goalscoring record.

Key Points

Italy’s last five: W/W/D/W/D

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: In 25 matches between the two nations, there has only been three 0-0 matches so we should see goals in Turin.

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Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The England captain is just two goals away from Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for England. He came agonisingly close to equalling it against Lithuania as he had multiple chances in front of goal. His confidence will be sky-high and he could cause the Italians problems.

Score Prediction

Italy 1-2 England – Without Pirlo pulling the strings for Italy, they lack so much creativity and that will be a huge boost for England. The Three Lions’ forceful attacking could lead to a goal or two and Hodgson will expect to see his side gain revenge for their 2-1 loss in Brazil last summer

Daniele De Rossi: “I want to end my career in MLS”

Daniele De Rossi wants to join the growing list of European superstars to cross the Atlantic in order to be a part of the ever-growing MLS.

The AS Roma midfielder has been with the Serie A club his whole career, making 471 appearances, and has represented the Italian National Team 106 times.

He has been highly regarded as one of the most talented defensive midfielders in world football for some time and he wants to experience playing in Major League Soccer before he hangs up his boots.

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“I like these sports, in European football we are at extremely high levels but they know their stuff too,” De Rossi told Roma TV.

“We must draw from American sports. They have a great organisation, a great relationship with their supporters.

“I’d like to end my career overseas. I want to live in America, and I hope I’ll be able to do that.”

Italian teammate Sebastian Giovinco will be joining Toronto FC this year, while Alessandro Nesta and Marco Di Vaio have also played in MLS with the Montreal Impact.

De Rossi’s current contract is set to expire in June 2017 and so he could move to MLS at that point of his career. He will be approaching 34 at that time and would still have a lot to offer any side.

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The introduction of Atlanta FC and Los Angeles FC in 2017 could be something that interests De Rossi and we could see the World Cup winner unveiled as a star signing in a couple of years.

He could join sooner, but he is likely to want to see out his contract with AS Roma after serving the club for 14 years.

Would Daniele De Rossi be a good signing for MLS? Which club could he join?

Massimo Ambrosini set for MLS swansong?

The former AC Milan Champions League winner Massimo Ambrosini has confirmed his departure from rivals Fiorentina, and could now make the switch to Major League Soccer.

Ambrosini, who turns 37 later this month, has been linked with a move across the Atlantic. He could be in for a huge pay cheque if he decides to make a move and have one final curtain call, similar to his compatriot and former Montreal Impact defender Alessandro Nesta who used to play with him at AC Milan.

Ambrosini was first linked with MLS teams last summer, with LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire reportedly offering contracts to the former Italy midfielder, before he opted to prolong his playing career in his homeland by signing a contract with the Viola.

He is now set to leave Fiorentina and is ready to leave Italian football for a new challenge in his illustrious career.

“I think I’ve finished with Italian football now, unless there are some sudden surprises. It would be too odd for me to stay. I am now going to take a break.”

Earlier reports this year suggested Orlando City SC, the new franchise for the 2015 season, could make him one of their designated players if he was to join them and the reference to taking a “break” opens the door to a move to Orlando, who won’t start playing until next March.

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Ambrosini could however join Montreal Impact, and join the Italian contingency already in Canada, with Marco Di Vaio and Matteo Ferrari both currently playing for the Impact.

The veteran midfielder would add a vast amount of experience to and MLS side after spending his entire playing career in Serie A, spending 18 years with AC Milan before making the move to Fiorentina last season.

If Massimo Ambrosini was to move to MLS, which club do you think he could sign for?