Chelsea: How Antonio Conte can sustain success at Stamford Bridge

Match of the Day

Antonio Conte is enjoying a spectacular first season as Chelsea manager, but can he follow it up by bringing sustained success to Stamford Bridge?

The 47-year-old Italian has the Premier League title in the bag, could soon get his hands on the FA Cup as well - and his side will compete in next season's Champions League.

He says this is only the start for his Blues team, but where do they go from here and how will he do it?

Former Chelsea players Ruud Gullit, Pat Nevin, Chris Sutton, Graeme le Saux and Mark Schwarzer tell BBC Sport what they think could happen next.

Will Conte stay? 'I would be stunned if he left now'

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Reports in Italy suggest Chinese-backed Serie A club Inter Milan are prepared to offer Conte £250,000 a week if he leaves Stamford Bridge one season into a three-year deal. Conte's wife and nine-year-old daughter stayed in Turin when he moved to London last year

Ruud Gullit (former Chelsea player and manager 1995-98): "From a football point of view, of course he will stay. His next challenge is to win the Champions League and he can do that with Chelsea.

"If he feels he has a team that can win it, why would he leave in order to start all over again somewhere else?

"It is different if it is a decision about his family. His personal life is important as well.

"If his family are not in London, it is a little bit odd because I think it is the best city in the world, so why are they not coming?

"It is understandable if people are very attached to their own customs, however. And, if his family want to be in Italy, then it is an easy choice for him to make."

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The Premier League Show: Antonio Conte interview

Pat Nevin (played more than 250 games for Chelsea 1983-88): "After spending a couple of hours talking to Antonio a few weeks ago, I would be stunned if he left.

"It would have to be an unbelievably spectacular offer to take him away from Chelsea and the only thing that usually means managers move on from positions like that is that they don't have the level of control they want.

"I don't think his own finances are a big deal for the guy and he told me he is enjoying London now.

"The other thing to consider is that when you stand at Stamford Bridge and you hear the fans singing 'Antonio, Antonio' then you realise the adoration he has got from everyone. That is hard to walk away from."

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What next for Conte's 'wonderful winning machine'?

Chris Sutton (broke Chelsea's transfer record when he joined for £10m in 1999): "The only way I see Conte leaving is if he does not get the players in he wants this summer.

"I don't think he will prioritise the Champions League because he will want to win everything, but I expect him to go really hard at it."

Premier League favourites and Champions League contenders?

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Antonio Conte soaked in Chelsea Premier League title celebration

Conte won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus between 2012 and 2014 but his Champions League record is less impressive - Juve lost 4-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals in 2012-13 and failed to get out of the group stage the following season.

Graeme le Saux (made more than 300 appearances for Chelsea in two spells 1987-1993 and 1997-2003): "Any success going forward depends on the personnel and if they can retain the quality players they have got.

"Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante are both 26, and they are young enough to make Chelsea a force going forwards.

"Diego Costa has been linked with a move to China, but it is important for Chelsea they keep this group of players together.

"If they do that, I think they will go into the next season as favourites to win the Premier League again."

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Who are the stars who won Chelsea the title?

Mark Schwarzer (part of the Chelsea squad that won the Premier League in 2014-15): "The potential is there for back-to-back titles, and Chelsea can win the Champions League too.

"There are players in that squad who have played in a number of Champions League games and been successful in that competition.

"Conte is very good at winning domestic competitions. Clubs like Chelsea, their number one priority is to win the Premier League and then look beyond that to try and win the big one, the Champions League.

"With the right additions, and a little bit of time, Chelsea can really challenge for that title but next season it is going to be a huge burden on them.

"We don't know how they will deal with the physical and mental side of having more games to play and less time to recover."

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Chelsea found right way to be stronger - Conte

Pat Nevin: "Conte has over-achieved domestically this season but, even so, the Champions League is a big jump - look at the lack of success by English teams in recent years.

"If he got Chelsea out of the group stage and into the latter stages that would be a success in his first season with the club in the Champions League.

"But that is predicated by one very important thing - who is he going to get in, and who will leave in the summer?"

Lukaku in? 'Conte needs four or five really quality signings'

Chelsea's most likely XI
This Chelsea team started 11 out of 22 Premier League matches from 1 October to the end of March after Antonio Conte switched from a 4-1-4-1 formation to start a league game with a 3-4-3 formation for the first time. Only two other players have started league games for the club in that period - Willian (eight starts) and Cesc Fabregas (six). Over the course of the whole season, Conte has made only 38 changes to his starting line-ups over the course of the Premier League season - fewer than any other top-flight team.

Pat Nevin: "With the current group, he cannot do next year what he has done this season. There is just not enough numbers there."

Chris Sutton: "Conte is clearly not big on rotation but he still had to change the make-up of his team around at times this season.

"He is fortunate he has got a lot of intelligent footballers who can play in numerous positions, but next season he will need more strength in depth and that means four or five really quality signings.

"Wing-backs would one of the areas where Conte will think he needs more cover and, whether Costa stays or goes, there is lots of talk about Everton striker Romelu Lukaku coming back to the club.

"Does Lukaku fit the Chelsea style? Absolutely.

"He likes to play between the two centre-halves and is not going to come deep to get the ball but, if he joins, I can see him being very successful playing that Costa role."

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'Maybe Drogba can tell me' - Koeman on Lukaku's future

Ruud Gullit: "John Terry is definitely leaving so they need someone in defence who can take David Luiz's position if something happens to him.

"But in every area they do not want a situation where they are depending too much on one player.

"Even when you have success, you need to change little things to keep people on their toes - look at what happened to Jose Mourinho after winning the title in 2015 - all of a sudden they went from champions to nothing."

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Jose Mourinho: How it went wrong at Chelsea

Pat Nevin: "Conte will want a bit more strength and power in midfield - but if he can keep Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Willian then he does not need any more creativity.

"The biggest question is at centre-forward. I watched Michy Batshuayi when he was playing in France and he is a real player, a goalscorer - someone who will do very well. I don't know if it will be at Chelsea though.

"Considering I believe that Conte wants to play two up front, he might want to go for a different type of centre-forward.

"As well as Lukaku, Alvaro Morata has been talked about. What has impressed me most about Conte, though, is he does things you do not expect - those are the names we are thinking about, but he might know about someone completely different."

Can the successful youth team play a part?

Tammy Abraham
The Blues won the FA Youth Cup for a record fourth successive year but no players from any of those teams started a league game for them this season. Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus-Cheek featured from the bench, however, and striker Tammy Abraham could follow them into the first team after his successful loan at Bristol City.

Chris Sutton: "Conte is not going to take his foot off the gas, if anything he will put his foot down harder. If any youth players get a game, it will not be down to him doing them a favour.

"Tammy Abraham has got something about him, and it will be interesting to see if he gets a chance. Ultimately, though, things have not changed since my day so it will be down to him - he will have to show what he can do in pre-season and hope it is enough."

Pat Nevin: "Chelsea fans will tell you we have got these good young kids and they will come in and make it.

"Really? Hopefully they will, and it would be the perfect situation if they did but people make the mistake of thinking the jump from the under-21s to Chelsea's first team is one step - it's not, it is about 47 steps.

"Abraham is going to be a great player, and he is coming back to the club for next season, but I would be shocked if all Chelsea did was stick with what they have got, and drafted more youth players in."

Costa out? 'If he wants to leave, then let him'

Chelsea striker Diego Costa
Costa's goals have earned more points than any other Premier League player this season

Graeme le Saux: "When you look at the balance and blend that Chelsea have you think it would be a shame to lose any of those players as they are all playing so well and understand their role perfectly."

Mark Schwarzer: "You could argue all of them would be hard to replace but Kante and Hazard probably stand out.

"Leicester tried to replace Kante and failed miserably. Yes, Chelsea are on a different level to Leicester but it would still be a huge void to fill.

"As for Hazard, he is an incredible talent. You just don't know what you are going to get from him - his ability to score goals and assist is quite remarkable."

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Archive: Everybody loves N'Golo: Pundits purr over Kante

Ruud Gullit: "Even when Costa has not been scoring goals, he still does an important job for the team. He is an example of someone they have depended on too much - he is up there with Hazard as one of their most influential players.

"But if Costa feels he wants to leave because he want a different challenge, then let him go. If that's his state of mind, it is better to sell him."

Chris Sutton: "Cesc Fabregas only has a year left on his contract and has not played as much as many of their players, but he will get more games next year.

"Arguably the biggest challenge for Conte was keeping him happy this season, but he has had that kind of harmony with his entire squad."

'Conte is adaptable, pragmatic - and not frightened to change'

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Nevin: Fabregas sums up Conte's success

Conte began the season using a 4-1-4-1 formation but switched to a 3-4-3 formation during their 3-0 defeat by Arsenal on 24 September. They started a game playing that way for the first time in their win against Hull on 1 October and went on to win 13 straight league matches.

Pat Nevin: "I suspect Conte will be using different systems, systems that will suit Fabregas a bit better.

"You think of the way Conte's Juventus team played with Andrea Pirlo, and that would suit Fabregas absolutely.

"People said he was a 3-4-3 man when he arrived at Chelsea but that was never the case. If you look back, he often played with four at the back and very frequently with two up front.

"He has already started to show he can change things around, when he left Costa and Hazard on the bench for the FA Cup semi-final. So the sort of thing he will need to do next season is already happening now.

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Conte will continue to 'raise the bar' in Premier League

Chris Sutton: "He changed things once, at the start of last season after some bad results.

"He seems an adaptable, pragmatic manager and I don't think he is frightened to change. You would not rule out him returning to four at the back if he sees fit.

"I don't think he is going to slacken off, though. Yes, he works the players hard in training but when you are successful it makes that treatment easier to accept."

'I don't think we have seen 50% of his capabilities yet'

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Conte interrupts news conference to eat journalist's cake

The last time Chelsea were champions was 2014-15, and they finished 10th the following season. No team has retained their Premier League title since Manchester United won it in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Graeme le Saux: "It bodes well for Chelsea that they now have a culture of achieving and setting very high standards for themselves and each other. The players clearly love playing for Conte and giving him everything as well.

"You would like to think all those values he is building at the club would hold the team in good stead going forward. I hope their success this year means there is some continuity there."

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Full-time scenes as Chelsea seal title

Pat Nevin: "Financially, Chelsea are in a great position. Obviously they are already very wealthy but it is almost forgotten they got £60m for Oscar in January and they have not spent that.

"So Conte will have an enormous amount to spend in the summer and the other thing he has got in his favour is that he is young for a manager - he turns 48 in July. So the passion, the hunger that he has, it is natural - and he is still on the upward curve.

"I don't think we have seen 50% of his capabilities yet and I am dead keen to see him up against Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, who will both be stronger next year."

Ruud Gullit: "Even if Conte does lose some of his players, the structure of his team is already there and he can build from the back.

"There are five teams challenging for the title in England but Conte does not have to start from scratch this time.

"It is just a question now of what he can add for next season and, after his first year in England, he will also have learned a lot."

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