WHOM the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.
And with every passing week, Antonio Conte is looking madder than hell.
Three games without a win equals a crisis for any Chelsea manager.
But when the results come on the back of a summer of Stamford Bridge discontent, amid increasing boardroom doubts — and now the first signs of player power beginning their familiar Chelsea rituals — Conte must heed the lessons of history.
Despite defeats by Manchester City and then Crystal Palace, followed by a 3-3 midweek Champions League draw against Roma, the Italian was in no mood to back down.
Instead, he once again insisted that he was a far-sighted prophet for warning the Chelsea board that their inability to provide him with the summer reinforcements he demanded would prove to be a recipe for failure.
BLUES BOSSES THAT GOT THE CHOP
AVRAM GRANT 2007-08
Blues players were unimpressed by the Israeli and voiced their doubts to the board. Grant kept going and lost the Premier League on the final day before suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat in the Champions League final. Was sacked four days later.
LUIZ FELIPE SCOLARI 2008-09
Early concerns over the lack of intensity and match preparations in training grew sharper as a bright start evaporated. The Brazilian then fell out with Didier Drogba. Lost job in February.
CARLO ANCELOTTI 2009-11
Italian had led the Blues to the Double in his first season but control began to slip, especially when £50million Fernando Torres flopped. Had to maintain he had not lost control of the dressing room after Ashley Cole shot a training ground employee with an air rifle. Dismissed minutes after defeat in final game of season.
ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS 2011-12
Arrived with a soaring reputation after success at Porto but rifts emerged, especially with Frank Lampard. Forced to abandon his precarious high defensive line after shambolic home display against Arsenal. Axed after losing confidence of his players.
ROBERTO DI MATTEO 2012
The Italian lifted the FA Cup and that long-desired Champions League but was never wanted. Fell out with Torres who he dropped for catastrophic 3-0 Euro defeat at Juventus, which saw him given the boot at 4am.
JOSE MOURINHO 2013-15
The Special One extended his record of always winning the title in his second season but internal divisions burst into open warfare as he labelled his dressing room detractors “rats” and accused them of leaking team information. Fired for the second time as players were still digesting their meal at the club Christmas party.
There have been reports of internal gripes about training; pushing exhausted players beyond their limits and contributing to the injury issues that have plagued his squad this season.
But Conte was adamant it was nothing more than a figment of their collective imaginations.
He did not attempt to hide the fact he remains unhappy with the club’s failure to bring in more fresh faces during the transfer window — and refused to be drawn on whether he had the support of the board.
A thin squad has been stretched by injuries that mean N’Golo Kante, Victor Moses and Danny Drinkwater are all out of this afternoon’s home clash with Watford, while Tiemoue Bakayoko is also doubtful.
Yet rather than opting to build bridges with his doubters and critics, Conte said: “I was a magician to anticipate it! Honestly, I think to anticipate some difficult situations is not for everybody.
“For sure, you hope. You hope you won’t have problems in your season.
“But, I repeat, I stay here to work. I stay here to put all of myself into this club, for the fans and the players. Me and my staff.
“And for sure I’m a person who is not afraid to face up to difficulties. My history speaks very clearly on that. I fought in the relegation zone.”
At Chelsea, of course, Conte is very much expected to fight for and deliver silverware.
Yet the former Juventus boss, whose revised and upgraded contract only lasts until the end of next season, referred to his first steps in management at lowly Serie B Arezzo.
Conte explained: “I started my career very badly. That was my first experience — but I understood and learned a lot from this.
“I repeat. I have experience, a lot of experience, as a player and as a coach in facing these type of situations.”
“But we are still only in October. It’s very difficult because we have just started our season — and now we have to face each competition with all our strength.
“We are in October — but we have to think about improving the present.
“This is the most important thing. To look at ourselves. Don’t find excuses. Tell always the truth. If you always tell the truth, you can’t be afraid of anything.”
Conte remained tight-lipped on any behind-the-scenes conversations he has had — but insists he does not need declarations of support.
He said: “I think that, about my talks with the club, it’s right to keep them secret.
“It’s not important to tell the press. It must be this way.
“The support is my job, my work. To put all of myself into the job.
“If this is enough, it’s OK. If it’s not enough . . . but the only support I know is my job.”
Conte was the target of a thinly-veiled attack by Jose Mourinho this week, who accused the Chelsea boss of ‘crying’ and using injuries as an excuse.
He defended his methods following claims players are dissatisfied with their training workload.
Asked if his players are unhappy, he said: “I don’t know. I have my methods. They’re the same as last season when we won the league.
Conte continued to make excuses and said: “We are working maybe 70 per cent less this season. Maybe it’s for this reason that we are having trouble.
“On tactical and physical aspects, we are working less. When you play every three days, it’s impossible to work so much, above all on the physical side.
“So on the tactical aspects, you have to work less. We are doing this.”
A few good results will put questions about Conte’s job on the back-burner — defeat to Watford means it may not be just the players who are unhappy.
The history of Chelsea under owner Roman Abramovich should be the sort of warning Conte cannot ignore.