Four tests Conte must score well on at Chelsea
CHELSEA confirmed on Monday that Italy coach Antonio Conte will take charge at Stamford Bridge in time for next season. Here are four things the former Juventus boss must focus on to get the troubled Premier League club back on track:
RESOLVE TERRY'S FUTURE
The 35-year-old defender dropped a bombshell in January when he announced he would be leaving at the end of the season because the club had told him he would not be given a contract extension.
But Chelsea have since insisted his fate will be decided solely by the new manager, leaving Conte to weigh up the benefits of keeping a figure of Terry's experience and tenacity, while also pondering whether his fading form and declining influence mean it would be wiser to sever ties with the polarising captain.
REBUILD THE EDEN PROJECT Rewind 12 months and Eden Hazard appeared to have the world at his feet as he prepared to accept two Footballer of the Year awards and a Premier League winners' medal.
Yet, less than a year later, the 25-year-old's form has mysteriously collapsed.
Hazard's perceived sulkiness during this season's collapse made him a target for Mourinho loyalists, who point out he has scored just twice for Chelsea this term. But it is the lethargic nature of his performances that will be most alarming for Conte as he contemplates how to revitalise the talented playmaker.
DEAL WITH SERIAL OFFENDER COSTA
Although Diego Costa's goals fired Chelsea to the Premier League title in his debut season, he was already earning a reputation as the unapologetically snarling face of Jose Mourinho's combative team.
Costa's bear with a sore head impression has fuelled speculation that he is unhappy in England and would relish a move in the close season so Conte must decide whether to cut his losses or try to rehabilitate the serial offender.
CHANGE THE MOOD MUSIC
Mourinho's abrasive approach irritated too many players leading to his sacking in December but even the more mild-mannered Guus Hiddink has been able to coax only a small improvement in the quality of the team's performances.
It will be fascinating to see if Conte changes his own intense style to soothe the fragile Chelsea egos, especially since Andrea Pirlo, who played under him at Juventus, described his compatriot like this: "Even when we're winning, Conte comes in and hurls (things) against the wall. His words assault you. They crash through the doors of your mind, often quite violently, and settle deep within you."