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Antonio Conte: Chelsea’s born winner who lost his mojo | Dominic Fifield

A year ago he was hailed as a genius for turning Chelsea from a shambles into champions, and yet today’s FA Cup final is expected to be his last game. What went so wrong, so quickly?

Antonio Conte, clean?shaven on the eve of the FA Cup final, digested the question, took a deep breath and then conjured a fresh analogy for an increasingly weary theme. “Last season was a wonderful season because we reached an important success,” the Chelsea head coach said, his mind retreating exactly 12 months to the raucous celebrations with the Premier League trophy on the pitch at Stamford Bridge. “But then you have to understand the way you won. If your car is going at 300km per hour, or if you are winning while going at normal velocity and aren’t risking burning out your engine.”

The Italian’s audience was picking apart that metaphor when, for those still in the dark, he followed up with a dash of clarity. “When you win, you must understand which is the best way to improve. Last season we won and we divided [praise for] this big win with the players and the club. This season we finished fifth. We must divide the responsibility between the club, the manager and the players in the same way. If you are intelligent, you understand what is wrong and what is right. And you to try and improve.”

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