Antonio Conte is all set to leave his post as manager of the Italian national team at the end of the Euro 2016 tournament, paving what seems to be an ever-more-likely route to the Chelsea dugout.
Despite a mid-season turn-around, the Blues have still had a drastically poor season as they failed to mount any sort of meaningful defence of their Premier League crown. The squad needs a shake-up and considering that Conte is a man with particular tactical ideas, some key players may leave through the exit door over summer.
With a new manager set to come into Stamford Bridge within a matter of months, now is the time to start performing for Chelsea's players. Whether they want to remain at the club or put themselves in the shop window for another side, this is a pivotal time of the season.
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And with Conte seemingly set to arrive after the European Championships, here are four players who may not remain with the club for too much longer.
After deservedly winning the Premier League Player of the Year award last season, Eden Hazard has been brought back down to earth with a shocker of a campaign. The attacker is still without a goal and his future with Chelsea remains in the balance.
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After only one poor season at Stamford Bridge, some of Europe’s richest clubs may still be willing to spend a fortune on the nippy forward and Conte may take the opportunity to cash in while he can.
If he does stay put, it remains to be seen as to how Conte would fit Hazard into one of his sides. In the past the Italian has preferred to utilise either a 3-5-2 or a 4-4-2 formation, neither of which Hazard would fit perfectly into.
The Belgian perhaps does not have the defensive qualities to play on the wing in a 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2, though he could perhaps play as a secondary striker in either set-up if he rediscovers his spark in front of goal.
The Brazilian no.10 is a quality player, brilliant with the ball at his feet, light-footed and with an eye for goal. But even so - as is reflective of Chelsea as a whole - he has had a sub-par season and Conte may look to take advantage this by cashing in so he can spend on other areas of the squad.
Like with Hazard, it is difficult to see how Oscar’s preferred no.10 role would fit into a stereotypical Conte eleven. He could perhaps play as an advanced midfielder in a 3-5-2, but previously, the Italian boss has preferred to play with box-to-box midfielders or deep-lying playmakers who are adept at more than one phase of play.
Oscar, while dazzling going forward, lacks the defensive nous to offer much else in any area of the pitch other than the final third. As a result, Conte may look to sell off some of Chelsea’s more agile, but lightweight players and bring in someone like Arturo Vidal, whose game has more of a physical edge.
The opposite of Oscar, John Obi-Mikel is a player who does all of his good work in his own half. The Nigerian has been converted into a midfield destroyer who offers little going forward, which is not a type of player that Conte has looked to use in the past.
The Italian manager usually prefers a deep-lying playmaker in the form of Andrea Pirlo, who he normally partners alongside more mobile players like Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal or Claudio Marchisio.
Mikel has only recently been brought back into the mix at Chelsea under Guus Hiddink after being left out of most of the action under Jose Mourinho. While he has started more games recently and impressed, Conte may use this short spell of form as a bargaining tool as he tries to sell the player.
After receiving wide acclaim for his performances in midfield alongside Cesc Fabregas last term, Nemanja Matic’s performances have dipped somewhat this season. Unless Conte changes his tactics to accommodate him, or he tries to convert him into more of a box-to-box player, then Matic may be sold during the summer.
While it is unlikely that Conte would sell both of Chelsea’s midfield enforcers upon entering the club, Matic is perhaps also at risk of losing out if Conte joins. Like Mikel, the Serbian is a midfielder who offers little going forward and with Conte usually preferring to employ box-to-box midfielders, Matic may be sold to bring in other reinforcements.
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