Antonio Conte revives his Italian crisis management to stop rot at Chelsea | Dominic Fifield

Players were read a riot act after the debacle at Roma that was first heard by Conte’s squad at Juventus as manager reaches crossroads at Stamford Bridge

Antonio Conte was at his animated best, waving his arms expressively and clicking his fingers as he wrestled for the right words, while the subject matter veered through the need to recover from Rome to the owner’s presence at the training ground via the imminent return of José Mourinho and Nemanja Matic to Stamford Bridge. Yet, once the head coach’s media duties were complete and he could return to his meticulous preparations up in his office, one thing was clear. Chelsea are at a crossroads under Conte.

The gauntlet has been thrown down to his players. If the Italian had initially struggled to make clear just how disgusted he was by Tuesday’s feeble second-half showing at the Stadio Olimpico, for all that his public mutterings had damningly questioned the “hunger” and “desire” of his side, then his feelings were drummed home in the first-team squad’s debrief back at Cobham two days later. Patience had snapped. Those who had let the collective down were singled out, their errors analysed, with the message very much that standards had slipped. From now on in, starting with the awkward yet intriguing visit of Manchester United, repeat offenders will simply be left out. Players will now either respond positively or the title defence will peter out in underachievement. And everyone knows where that particular road tends to lead at Chelsea.

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