Antonio Conte reportedly will not walk away from his job as Chelsea head coach despite "major dressing-room tension" at the club amid speculation the Blues are targeting former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique as his replacement.
According to Sami Mokbel and Matt Barlow for the Daily Mail, player unrest is increasing at Stamford Bridge, but Conte—whose £9 million-per-year contract runs until the end of next season—is leaving his future in the hands of owner Roman Abramovich, with a great deal of compensation at stake if he is fired.
In the meantime, the Italian must deal with some unhappy figures in his squad, who have complained at his "repetitive and monotonous" training schedule, which is also said to be causing fatigue among his players and increasing their risk of injuries, with eight having suffered hamstring problems at various points in the season.
According to the Telegraph's Matt Law, Abramovich will not be allowing player power to dictate his decision on Conte as he has in the past with Jose Mourinho and before him Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas, with none of the current squad enjoying direct contact with the Russian.
Law also gave his take on Conte's future on Twitter:
Per the Daily Star's Paul Brown, some inside the club believe the Italian's comments are an attempt to force them into sacking him.
Pressure has mounted on Conte since the turn of the year, with Chelsea picking up just two wins from 10 matches in that time and losing 3-0 to Bournemouth and 4-1 to Watford in their last two outings. Football writer Garry Hayes put the results in further damning context:
On the other hand, despite mixed success with their recruitment since Conte took charge and their recent downturn in results, Chelsea have largely been superb under the coach, per OptaJoe:
However, that has often mattered little when it comes to retaining the manager's job at Stamford Bridge, and according to Sport (h/t MailOnline's Adam Shergold), Chelsea are lining up Enrique to take over.
Goal's Nizaar Kinsella believes the Blues' trigger-happy approach to managers will not tally well with their more austere methods in the transfer market of late:
Their approach to recruitment is one of the contributing factors to their current struggles, and bringing in a new manager is less likely to have the desired effect if he isn't backed in the transfer market.
What's more, though Enrique is said to be "one step away" from taking over at Stamford Bridge, and he's available, it's likely he would prefer to take charge at the end of the season.
Despite Chelsea's form, Conte deserves the chance to see out the campaign, but it will require a quick turnaround if that is to happen—player power or not.