Okay, let’s get this out of the way quickly. Winning the Premier League is always a good thing. It’s the whole reason the competition is held: to win it. What we are looking at here is the infrastructure of the club and if winning the Premier League this season could have long reach effects that might not be great for Chelsea down the road. Even though if you were to ask any team, they would probably wish to switch places and risk having these problems.
First, we have to look at how running away with the league two seasons out of the last three with two different managers could breed overconfidence in the players and fans. Now, every club has to deal with overconfidence at some point, but this tends to be situational overconfidence. The kind of overconfidence that would be bred here is institutional. Think of Manchester United under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal (arguably continuing now with Jose Mourinho). You usually find it in teams that have been incredibly successful with many “star” players that begin to believe in their own hype. It can be great while things are going well, causing teams to play with an arrogant swagger that confidence breeds, but when things go poorly, look out. Then, it’s everyone else’s fault.
We saw this clearly in Chelsea last season. As things began to go south for Chelsea, the players quickly turned on Jose Mourinho, which made matters worse. This isn’t to clear Mourinho of all the blame for Chelsea’s pitiful performance that season, but he certainly cannot take all of the blame. The benefit of that season’s crushing form was that it brought the players back down to Earth, leading to the mentality that they are playing with now. The players knew they were poor, and now it is up to them to prove that they still are great players. If they succeed, there is a risk that the overconfidence could come back, which has to be concerning for Antonio Conte and his coaches.
That is the biggest worry here with Chelsea winning the league almost too convincingly (if that is possible). What Conte is building at Chelsea is impressive. They are tactically sound and it is difficult to find too many problems with them. The only thing that can derail them is another player implosion like what occurred under Mourinho. Remember, when Mourinho waltzed to the league, we were predicting the same things the next season. Then, the players had enough of their manager and decided to throw a tantrum. Now, with Chelsea doing so well, the players are seeing that that tactic actually works! None of the players really got punished or shipped off, they only benefited. And the same could happen to Conte.
With Chelsea going from a successful season to a tantrum back to a successful season, the seeds of doubt can be planted in the players’ minds. Is it Conte, who is having them play so well or is it that the players got their way? Who’s to say that once Conte’s “give all or die” style of management grinds on a few of the players, they won’t turn on him? We have already seen sparks that could lead to a fire.
The signs of player power run amok at Chelsea has been the topic of discussion since Mourinho’s first stint at the London club. If the player power at that club is so strong that it can beat the manager who made them a force in the modern game, why would it not be able to take down Conte?
While I’m not advocating for Chelsea to purposefully drop points, the potential negative connotations of running away with the league surely will not be missed by Conte. That’s when the real work begins for the Italian, and he’ll need all of his ability to mold that team and defeat the overconfidence that is brewing. But despite the unknown of the future, at least it’s a great right right now.