Who’s next in the Chelsea hot seat?

Who’s next in the Chelsea hot seat?

With Antonio Conte set to leave Chelsea in the forthcoming weeks, who will be the man to replace the Italian at Stamford Bridge?

Zinedine Zidane’s surprise resignation from Real Madrid last week has left much speculation as in to who will be replacing him at the Bernabeu. One of the favourites set to be offered the job is current Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. After enduring an extremely successful first season in West London in 2016/17, where he won the Premier League with his new club, this season has been a far cry from that memorable campaign.

Although Chelsea did clinch the FA Cup at the end of the season, finishing 5th has meant that they will miss out on Champions League football next term. This then has a huge effect on the level of personnel they’ll be able to acquire over the summer, as the world’s top players won’t want to be competing in the Europa League, making Chelsea’s title challenge next season even harder. Conte is being held accountable for these failings, and in some ways of course that is understandable. He is at the end of the day the man who picks the team week in, week out.

It’s clear that the 48-year-old Italian has lost not only the backing of the board, but the dressing room and there is sadly no real turning back from that. Zidane’s exit at Madrid has opened up an exciting new opportunity for the former Juventus boss and it looks as though he will be exploring it. So, with Conte all but gone, who will be the man to take the reins at The Bridge? We’ve taken a look at the three favourites and given our take on each of the candidates below, let us know your thoughts by tweeting us @Oddschanger!

Laurent Blanc – The Bookies Favourite (5/6)

52-year-old Laurent Blanc is the favourite to take up the hot seat at Stamford Bridge. The former France manager is rumoured to be on the cusp of signing for the West London outfit and has apparently even assembled a plan for who he wants as part of his backroom staff. The reason he hasn’t been appointed already is supposedly because Conte will be owed around £9million in compensation should Chelsea actually sack him, however if Real Madrid actively come in for him this fee will be wavered.

Blanc will bring with him a wealth of experience should he take over at Chelsea. After starting his managerial career at Bordeaux, where he won the league title in just his second season in charge, Blanc went onto manage the French national team for two years before taking over at Ligue 1 titans PSG. Three league titles, three Coupe de la Ligue’s and two Coupe de France’s later and the former Manchester United defender left the Parc des Princes, making way for Unai Emery as the club went through a complete revamp in 2016.

Blanc has been out of work since leaving PSG two years ago, which of course is a bit of a concern when talking about jobs at the most elite level, however there is no doubting that he has the potential to be a really good manager in the Premier League. A tremendous player that played in the English top-flight over 40 times back in the ‘early-noughties’, Blanc fits Chelsea’s mould perfectly and will bring with him not only experience but elegance in the Blues quest for league dominance next season.

Maurizio Sarri – Most Wanted (11/4)

Former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri is rumoured to be Chelsea’s first choice manager for next season, however his current club are demanding that the Blues pay a £7million release clause to obtain his signature which is causing an unwanted delay. The situation with the 59-year-old at the moment is an extremely complex one. Although he is still under contract at Napoli as a coach, he was officially replaced as first team manager by Carlo Ancelotti a fortnight ago amid speculation of him moving to West London. The only way Sarri will be able to leave the Italian club is if Chelsea agree to pay the £7million that Napoli are demanding, but should they not do this then he will be forced to remain at the Stadio San Paolo in a non-managerial role, or take legal action against his current employers.

Although finishing last season trophy-less, Sarri endured a promising season at Napoli last time out. They ran Juventus right down to the wire in their battle for the Serie A title, missing out on the trophy by a mere 4 points. He made his side a force to be reckoned with on home soil, losing just two league games at the Stadio San Paolo all season and got his team playing some fantastic football at times, the sort of football that would fit in perfectly at Chelsea should he take over at Stamford Bridge. One thing he would change is the formation though; Sarri is a fan of 4-3-3 as opposed to Conte’s 3-5-2, opting to play out-and-out full-backs and wingers instead of wing-backs. He likes his team to play out from the back, with the two central defenders spreading wide, allowing for the holding midfield man to come deep and collect the ball from the goalkeeper to start off passages of play.

Sarri’s sides are tactically sound, ruthless in attack and very exciting to watch. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said that Napoli were the hardest side his team had faced last season when the two met in the Champions League (prior to them playing Liverpool), and recognition like that does not come cheaply. Should Chelsea bite the bullet and pay Sarri’s release clause, they’ll have more or less a like-for-like replacement for Conte. But will they be willing to part with another £7million, whilst also buying Conte out of his contract for a further £9million?

Slaviša Jokanović – The Outsider (7/1)

Fulham manager Slaviša Jokanović is the third man in the running for the Chelsea job. Although it’s unlikely that the Serbian will take over at Stamford Bridge, there is definitely weight behind the rumours considering what a fantastic job he’s done at Craven Cottage. Jokanović has just guided Chelsea’s closest rivals to the Premier League after beating Aston Villa 1-0 in the play-off final two weeks ago, so regardless of whether he moves or doesn’t, he’ll still be managing in the top-flight next term. The 49-year-old spent two years at Chelsea throughout his playing career so is very familiar with the club, but is he the right man for the managers job?

Slaviša Jokanović has enjoyed a wealth of success throughout his four years managing in England, guiding both Watford and Fulham to the Premier League from the Championship. In 2015 he got Watford promoted to the Premier League after finishing as runners-up to champions Bournemouth, but was replaced by Quique Sánchez Flores after failing to agree a new deal at Vicarage Road. After this, the former Serbian international moved to Isreal to take the reins at Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he led the club to the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in 11 years.

After just 6 months in charge at Tel Aviv, Jokanović made his return to English football by joining Fulham in December of 2015. He managed to avoid relegation in his first season at Craven Cottage before narrowly missing out on the play-off final after losing to eventual runners-up Reading 2-1 on aggregate. He’d definitely be the cheapest option for Chelsea, that’s for sure. And a risk considering he’s never managed in the Premier League, but there’s absolutely no doubting that he’s a very exciting, vibrant young manager that would breathe a breath of fresh air into a club that is in desperate need of a change in direction next season.