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Chelsea's misguided striker targets are a bad sign for Antonio Conte

Chelsea's misguided striker targets are a bad sign for Antonio Conte
From ESPN - January 19, 2018

LONDON -- Antonio Conte insisted on Friday, albeit with a hint of resignation, that he is "very calm" about Chelsea's efforts to bolster his squad in the January transfer window.

"I am happy to work with these players," he insisted. "Then, if the club wants to help us, we are happy. Otherwise we will continue in this way."

It is a philosophical attitude that jars with the prevailing mood around Stamford Bridge. Reports this week suggesting that the Premier League champions had enquired about the availability of West Ham striker Andy Carroll and Stoke City's veteran target man Peter Crouch had many Chelsea supporters asking, justifiably, what on earth is going on with their club's recruitment strategy.

Carroll is an inconveniently fragile battering ram of a centre-forward who has completed 90 minutes just three times in the Premier League this season. Crouch has at least done it on seven occasions, but he turns 37 at the end of the month and is less mobile than ever. Combined, the two men have five goals in 30 Premier League appearances in 2017-18.

There are reasons why two such underwhelming targets have come into view in the winter window, but they are unlikely to go down well with indignant fans.

Conte's stance is simple: He has wanted a big, physical striker -- or as he calls it, a "point of reference" -- in his squad for the best part of 18 months. His first choice was Fernando Llorente, halfheartedly pursued by Chelsea in each of the past two windows before joining Tottenham for bigger wages and a longer contract on transfer deadline day.

Now they are working their way down the list and, as he has pointed out many times, Conte is not the one who devises it.

"The club sometimes asks me my opinion about the transfer market, about our situation, the way we can improve," he reiterated on Friday. "But, at the same time, the final decision is for the club."

Chelsea are operating with a variety of considerations. The fact that Carroll and Crouch were both proposed loan deals highlights the first: Given that Conte is far from certain to still be in charge next season, is it wise to sink long-term money and resources into a player -- or even a type of player -- that the next head coach may feel completely different about?

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