Conte will have hard time rebuilding Chelsea, says Richard Buxton
Incoming coach will have his work cut out rebuilding bland Blues
MAN CITY 3
(Sergio Aguero 33, 54, 80-pen)
Antonio Conte could have been forgiven for watching Chelsea's demolition at the hands of Manchester City through the peripheral vision of his fingers.
The current Italy coach always knew he would be facing an arduous task in taking to the Stamford Bridge hot seat this summer but, perhaps, not to this extent.
Their 3-0 reversal to Manchester City at Stamford Bridge yesterday morning (Singapore time) was as gruesome as Sergio Aguero proved clinical for the visitors.
Even Roman Abramovich, the club's ruthless owner, appeared to be sparing himself the horror of events by burying his head in his phone.
Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, may have taken something celebratory into his office at Bayern Munich's Saebener Strasse training complex as he observed proceedings.
Neither of these fallen former English Premier League champions will look back on this season, one in which they have both fallen far beyond even basic expectations, with any degree of fondness.
However Conte, rather than Guardiola, is the one who will now have his work cut out.
As City continue to dream of an end-of-season jaunt to Milan for next month's Champions League final, Chelsea's players already appear to be entering holiday mode.
With little more than pride to contest in a campaign that has descended into a farce, their games have taken on an almost testimonial-like feel.
Diego Costa showed once more why he has spent large parts of the past eight months with his head anywhere other than Stamford Bridge.
Therein lies the problem with the current gulf in standards between west London and east Manchester.
Manuel Pellegrini possesses a team well stocked in both quality and depth to Guardiola to hit the ground running with his inherited squad.
Their only shortcomings lie in a continually fragile defence, typified this time by Nicolas Otamendi's errors.
In Aguero, City have a striker capable of exuding both confidence and consistency in front of goal.
This hat-trick took him to 21 goals in seven games fewer than it had taken Jamie Vardy, the Leicester City marksman with whom he was tied as the EPL's second-highest scorer before the latter scored against West Ham last night.
Spearheaded by Kevin de Bruyne's surging runs, the Argentinian took his tally to 13 goals in his past 12 outings.
That combination was one of many on a list of problems for Chelsea that could stretch the length of Fulham Road.
Devoid of the authoritarian presence of John Terry in defence, Guus Hiddink was simply incapable of overseeing what would otherwise have been an inevitable shackling of Aguero.
Instead, they were overpowered by a front-line which outstripped their hosts by more than mere monetary value.
Once more, Abramovich must curse his judgment in allowing Jose Mourinho's actions to come back to haunt the Blues on numerous occasions this season.
Allowing de Bruyne to walk away two summers ago was merely the latest in The Special One's growing catalogue of failings at Stamford Bridge.
Like Hiddink, Conte will now become the latest to reap what his doomed predecessor has sown. It is likely to be anything but a cakewalk.