The secrets of success in Antonio Conte's second season at Chelsea
What constitutes success for Chelsea after a debut season for Antonio Conte which saw him lift the title? Dan Levene has some ideas...
It is the final day of the 2017-18 Premier League season, and Chelsea fans are partying in Newcastle.
That's no indicator of success or failure, by the way: an away day in the UK's party capital is nailed-on to be a great end to the coming campaign. But what would success look like during Antonio Conte's second season in charge of The Blues?
Success in football isn't all about trophies, and there are other issues that Conte needs to get a handle on to ensure this club that has so taken him to its heart continues to progress in the right direction.
After years of near misses, this is the campaign in which Chelsea's manager has a real opportunity to start integrating youth into the team.
Conte's system requires a finely tuned machine and, for the first time on his watch, he has the benefit of a full pre-season in which to train-up as many individuals as possible in the ways which a small band turned into Premier League glory last term.
That means working hard with players like Nathaniel Chalobah, Andreas Christensen and possibly Ola Aina to make sure they are at the very least challenging for a start in games other than the odd League Cup fixture.
Creating a continuity of development is as important this year as any trophy, and Conte has already shown that he is willing to grant the chances that can make that happen.
Another major issue this coming season will be that of the stadium. While plans to rebuild Stamford Bridge lie a long way outside of Conte's remit, his influence has the potential to decide how much of a success these are.
With Chelsea set to spend three or four seasons away from their historic home, the issues of strength and momentum of support will be vital between now and the opening of the new 60,000-capacity ground in perhaps five years’ time.
Trophies will, again, be a contributing factor but more important than that will be a feeling around the club that both team and supporters are travelling in the same direction together.
Aside from that league trophy, one of the most pleasantly surprising things to emerge from Conte's first season was the way in which he so quickly became a universally popular figure.
That feeling of belief and belonging, stronger this season at Chelsea than perhaps at any time in recent years, is vital if the club is to minimise the upheaval that will inevitably go with such a prolonged period in exile. Combined with the introduction of homegrowns to the side, it will reinforce in fans a belief that this is a project worthy of their support.
The longer Conte remains the darling of the paying public, the greater the chance that the rebuild will be a success.
2017, Antonio Conte, Chelsea, Getty ImagesGetty Images
A third matter key to establishing whether this season is seen as a success, is the need to re-establish Chelsea as a major force in European football.
After a year out, the club will be back in Pot One come the Champions League draw on 24 August. While winning the trophy in the first season back is highly unlikely, doing well in it will bring extra funds, turn the heads of potential signings and help further spread the lucrative building of the club's brand around the world.
These three aspects show that there is a lot more to success for Conte, in season two, than simply lifting tin pots. But, as with all recent Chelsea bosses, there will be an expectation from up high that he can manage that too.
If Conte's side is still in European contention come Easter, qualifies for next season's Champions League all over again, and manages to lift a domestic trophy – then that should also help ensure his longer-term prospects with the club.