THREE out of five Chelsea fans believe the club was right to ditch Antonio Conte as manager this summer.
Blues fans were fed up with the “negative” approach under Conte and blamed him for the surrender of their proud long unbeaten home record against bitter rivals Spurs.
And while there was anger at the Stamford Bridge board over the off-field decisions that helped see the club drop out of the Champions League places, Conte was the prime focus of disquiet.
The scale of dissatisfaction was outlined in the sixth annual survey of Blues fans by the Chelsea Supporters Trust.
A record 3,000 supporters offered their thoughts at the end of last season, shortly before Roman Abramovich pulled the plug on the £1.5billion plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge.
The survey found fans split 60-40 over the decision to axe Conte, whose replacement Maurizio Sarri has overseen an unbeaten start to the new campaign which leaves Chelsea just two points off the Premier League summit.
But those who wanted Conte out cited the “negative or boring football” under him.
The survey reported: “There was a frustration with the style of play adopted for many games, often citing a cautious approach against ‘lesser’ teams and showing undue respect when playing rivals.
“Whilst it has been unusual for specific games to get much attention in the survey previously, this year was very different.
“Team selection, unnecessarily rigid tactics and poor game management were all cited as a problem.
“A lot of fans expressed dismay at losing the unbeaten record at home to Spurs in particular, with some critical of the performance.
“And there was a great deal of outright condemnation of the negative approach taken in the game away to Manchester City in particular.”
The “conflict” between Conte and the club hierarchy – as well as key members of the Chelsea squad – was also mentioned by fans.
Some suggested this was “the result of the Board failing to back the manager during the summer after the relatively unexpected Premier League triumph”.
But other pinned responsibility firmly on the manager’s shoulders.
The survey added: “There was also a great deal of blame for Antonio Conte, in his attitude for much of the season and apparent loss of interest or ability to motivate the players – indeed falling out with some of them, or so it appeared from the outside.”
Fans made clear their unhappiness at the sales of stars Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, whose move to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United “was not popular”, while they slated “the quality and fitness of many of the players coming in”.
And supporters voiced “a great deal” of backing for the appointment of a technical director, “preferably with a Chelsea connection”.
One other issue, once again, was ticket prices, with increasing concerns that younger fans are still being priced out of attending matches.
Chelsea Supporters Trust chairman David Chidgey said: “We have another clear indication that the cost of attending football threatens to exclude the very people who will be the future of the club’s support, the 16 to 25 year olds.
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“With Chelsea having one of the oldest season ticket demographics, this should be of great concern to the club and needs to be addressed.
“At a time when the likelihood of safe standing being introduced is greater than ever, it would be ironic that those who might benefit most from it may be priced out.
“The Premier League should be concerned that those who are most likely to generate the great atmosphere that is its unique selling point cannot afford to go to matches.”