Time's up for Conte
Chelsea manager's indecision and players' indifference spell the beginning of the end for the Italian
Deep down, Antonio Conte knows that this is the beginning of his end at Chelsea.
The former Juventus and Italy coach was supposed to be immune from the chop which befell those before him at Stamford Bridge.
In his homeland, however, that hand was finally exposed within a minute of play.
At the Stadio Olimpico, Conte fiddled while his side crashed and burnt in a 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Roma yesterday morning (Singapore time).
He cannot say the signs had not been forthcoming.
Just 10 days earlier, Watford threatened to begin derailing his Chelsea tenure before a late fightback spared him.
Roma, too, had fired their own warning shots in the corresponding fixture barely a fortnight ago.
The same tactics which Jose Mourinho employed during his own downfall at Chelsea are now rearing an ugly head under Conte.
Where the Portuguese had accused his squad of treachery, Conte lamented their complacency.
For a change this season, he is not wrong.
Threats of a dressing room revolt have been replaced by indifference from players who had toiled willingly for him in the previous campaign.
As it did the last time they won the EPL title, bad habits have again begun to set in.
Owing to events elsewhere in Group C, Chelsea would still seal their place in the knockout stage with a victory over Qarabag later this month.
Even that cannot be taken for granted in a group which should have realistically been theirs for the taking.
Conte has to apportion blame to himself for the current drop in standards.
A ninth defensive combination has limited a once formidable back three to just five clean sheets in all competitions.
Roma proved to have more hunger, more desire, more will to fight and to beat us. We lacked everything.Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
It points to a level of indecision that is far removed from the previously self-assured coach who mastered games through sheer diligence.
By Conte's own admission, the fallen EPL champions have been training at a significantly reduced level; typified by slapstick defending which dominated their performance yesterday.
His lack of faith in those charged with filling the void left by the injured N'Golo Kante again underlined the folly in allowing Mourinho to take Nemanja Matic to Manchester United.
In Kante's absence, Chelsea's midfield is pedestrian and easily overrun.
Both Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko simply cannot compensate for Kante's flawless ability to read opposition attacks.
The Blues will be keeping their fingers crossed that he can recover in time for Monday morning's showdown with Man United.
The mistrust in the Chelsea camp is not limited to defensive duties either.
Conte's perseverance with Alvaro Morata once again failed to pay dividends.
With eight goals in his previous 10 games, Michy Batshuayi appeared a logical choice to try and stem the tide.
Conte's decision to introduce Batshuayi only in the 75th minute against Roma, when Chelsea were already 3-0 down, gave the Belgian front man no chance of turning things around.
A defeat at Stamford Bridge against United would leave what little remains of Chelsea's title defence in tatters.
Just like the man he will face down on Monday morning, Conte has also finally lost his way at the Bridge.