Chelsea players eased the pressure on manager Antonio Conte with a 2-0 win against Hull at the weekend, but Tim Sherwood believes that the jury is still out on the Italian as he struggles to implement his style of play at Stamford Bridge.
Goals from Wiliian and Diego Costa were enough to take all three points on Saturday as Conte switched to having three central defenders in the Blues game at the KCOM Stadium. Former Tottenham and Aston Villa manager Sherwood wasn’t overly impressed with the West London side’s performance, however, believing that they should have won much more easily against the Tigers. He also felt that we didn’t learn much from the Italian’s decision to play three at the back, given that Hull were playing one man up front on his own.
Speaking to Sky Sports Sherwood said, “Chelsea looked comfortable because they were up against Mbokani on his own and no one ever put any pressure on them. They changed the system to play three at the back and if there’s one team you want to do that against its Hull City. It just fell nicely for Antonio Conte”.
The former England international, who won the Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers in 1995, believes that the next few games will tell us more about the changes that Conte is making at Stamford Bridge and that David Luiz, who returned to Chelsea on Transfer Deadline Day, might be caught out against better teams than Hull. He said, “I would not like to see David Luiz being left on his own in the middle of the pitch when the centre-backs split against Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani in their next home game. After that game will be the right time to judge and see whether Conte’s systems are working”.
Sherwood was unimpressed with Hull City and felt that they didn’t pose anywhere near enough of a threat to mean that we can make judgements about Conte’s decision to play three at the back. He said, “To be perfectly honest they could have played any formation against Hull. Formation didn’t win them the game, the fact they’ve got world class players in abundance and Hull are struggling for real quality in the Premier League did”.
The former Tottenham striker thinks that Conte needs to start implementing his plan for the club sooner rather than later if the Blues are to improve on last season’s tenth place finish. With big games coming up the Italian needs to get his players working together quickly if he hopes to survive at Stamford Bridge. Sherwood: “Let’s see in the next couple of games how Chelsea fare against Leicester and Manchester United and then we can judge Antonio Conte. For me the jury is still firmly out. I’m not seeing any changes from last season. I’m not seeing a Chelsea side that has a plan”.
The Sky Sports pundit thinks that Conte is also struggling to stamp his identity on the West London club; something that his Premier League rivals have already done at Liverpool and Manchester City. He said, “If you’re a manager of a big club you should have an identity and you should not change it, why should you change? We see Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola’s identities. Chelsea are a big club, they should have their own identity and should stick to it”.
For Sherwood, the fact that the Blues lack any clear identity is something that will be concerning the club’s Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. Having sacked José Mourinho in December of last year for getting Chelsea off to its worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1960s, Conte will be aware that his time at Stamford Bridge will be limited if he doesn’t get them playing well soon. Sherwood said, “When they’re playing against teams like Hull they should go and play the Chelsea way. I’m just not sure what that is at this moment in time”.