5th April, 2016
Chelsea’s appointment of Antonio Conte as manager “does not make any sense”, says ex-Blues striker Chris Sutton.
He thinks the Italy boss is too similar to Jose Mourinho, who was sacked in December amid suggestions he had fallen out with several senior players.
“If the players have downed tools before there is every suggestion that, with Conte being a similar type to Mourinho, they will down tools again,” Sutton told BBC Radio 5 live.
Conte, 46, takes over after Euro 2016.
“If he comes in and starts hitting the players with a whip, are they going to respond?” asked Sutton.
“Bringing in a similar type of manager to Mourinho in Conte doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Two other former Chelsea players, Andy Townsend and Pat Nevin, think the Premier League champions, who were 16th in the table when Mourinho was dismissed, have made a “good appointment” in ex-Juventus boss Conte.
“I don’t think Conte will be far removed from what Jose was like at his very best,” said former Republic of Ireland midfielder Townsend.
“Jose captured the attention of the players when he arrived. There was an intensity about what he did, the players responded and enjoyed working under that sort of regime. I feel Conte will do the same.”
Ex-Scotland winger Nevin added: “People think of him as a one-system manager. He’s not. He’s always been very adaptable.”
After Mourinho’s sacking, Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said there had been a “palpable discord between manager and players”.
As a temporary measure and to restore some stability, the Blues appointed Guus Hiddink as interim manager for a second time.
The Dutchman has not lost any of his 15 league games in charge and has guided them to 10th in the table.
Sutton said keeping the former Netherlands boss would have been a “good option”.
“It is working under him – the team have improved beyond all recognition,” said Sutton, signed by Chelsea for £10m in 1999.
Under Mourinho, the Blues won the Premier League title by eight points last season and also lifted the League Cup.
But they lost nine of their opening 16 league games this term and were one point above the relegation places when he was sacked.
One of Conte’s first jobs at Stamford Bridge could be to decide the Chelsea future of John Terry, who is out of contract in the summer.
“If Conte turns up and wants to play three centre-backs, then I don’t see why John couldn’t play for another 12 months in that system,” said Townsend.
Sutton added: “They have got to keep John Terry at the club in some capacity. I think Conte will keep him purely on his playing ability.”
Sutton thinks the Blues will struggle to attract top-class players without the lure of European football.
Chelsea, who won the 2012 Champions League and 2013 Europa League, are 10th in the Premier League, 10 points adrift of the top four.
“If you want to play Champions League football you go to best teams,” said Sutton. “Chelsea are going to find signing top players tough.”