“Ugly duckling into a swan”: Conte’s secret to “instant” success

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Antonio Conte is something of a miracle worker, as his first season at Chelsea — and the subsequent turnaround from last season — has been nothing short of miraculous.

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For his part is restoring the Blues as Premier League champions-elect in 2016-17, Conte’s place in Chelsea lore looks set to be secure by early May. Anything he does in the future — and it does look like he’s building a juggernaut for the long haul — could see his legend one day elevated for iconic status, should he stick around west London long enough.

How, though, did the former Juventus and Italian national team boss do it, and so quickly? From Sept. 24, the day of that embarrassing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal, Chelsea have been virtually untouchable, losing just once in 18 league games. According to Conte, it’s the “blind faith” placed in him by each and every one of his players — quotes from the Guardian:

“If you compare this Chelsea with the team from last season [when they finished 10th having won the title in the previous campaign] then it’s normal that you’d end up this way: you can’t turn an ugly duckling into a swan in an instant. I’m not a coach who compromises and with my blind faith in the work we’re doing, and in my ideas, I’ve been able to forge straight ahead without worrying about anyone else.”

“My experiences as a player taught me that you will win a lot and lose a lot too and that instilled in me a fierce will to win. Those who are out in front must not falter. It sends a message to those who are following, an increasingly loud message, that we must make the most of this period.”

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Credit must also go to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, and anyone else at the club who played a role in hiring Conte, for selecting the right man for the right job at the right time. Not only do Conte’s tactical tendencies perfectly fit the players at his disposal, but they’ve so clearly responded to his leadership style — versus that of his predecessor, Jose Mourinho, who was fired after a full-squad revolt last winter — and the result is a nine-point lead with 14 games to play in the PL season.