After Chelsea suffered successive Premier League defeats of three or more goals for the first time in 23 years against Bournemouth and Watford to leave an irate but defiant Antonio Conte seemingly on the brink of becoming the club's latest managerial casualty, IBTimes UK looks at what has gone wrong for the passionate Italian since he masterminded an impressive title assault in his very first season at the helm...
Conte has certainly not been shy to publicly question Chelsea's transfer policy, which involved eventually spending over £200m ($277m) in the summer on seven new players - many of whom have yet to register much of a discernible impact - and inexplicably allowing midfield enforcer Nemanja Matic to depart for Manchester United.
Ross Barkley, Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud all arrived before last month's January deadline, but the point over a general lack of real quality additions remains and Conte has also bemoaned his lack of influence when it comes to incomings and outgoings.
The significant and sustained investment from the likes of runaway leaders Manchester City and rivals United on top-drawer talent has also contributed heavily to Chelsea being reduced from title contenders to struggling just to retain their top-fourth berth.
Ongoing internal strife/Diego Costa saga and Michael Emenalo exit
The acrimonious and protracted Costa saga appeared to fire the starting pistol on Chelsea's current woes and Conte's fractious relationship with the board only seems to have rapidly deteriorated since then, with recent calls from the manager for an uncharacteristic public vote of confidence extremely unlikely to be heeded by the notoriously silent Roman Abramovich.
The November resignation of long-serving technical director Michael Emenalo - rumoured to have been the peacemaker and intermediary between Conte and increasingly influential director Marina Granovskaia, with whom he is not said to see eye-to-eye - certainly did not help matters.
It is that relationship breakdown and complete lack of harmony with regards to recruitment that makes it virtually impossible to see the 48-year-old, under contract for another 18 months, lasting in his current position beyond the end of the season, regardless of whether or not Chelsea are able to recover from their recent blip.
Chelsea were notably lucky with injuries during their last title-winning campaign, but that good fortune has not carried over into 2017-18 – an important development given how limited they are in terms of depth in certain areas.
Andreas Christensen, Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso and Ross Barkley all missed Monday's (5 February) 4-1 humiliation at Watford, while Pedro had to be helped off the pitch after sustaining a problem in the second half. Several other key senior players have endured spells on the sidelines this term, including Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, N'Golo Kante, Willian, Victor Moses and Cesc Fabregas.
The frequency of hamstring issues among Chelsea's first-team squad - with Barkley said to be the latest victim - has also seen questions begin to be asked of Conte's demanding training regime, per The Telegraph, though it could easily be said that fixture congestion is the major factor in that regard.
Conte's overdue decision to instigate a switch to his favoured 3-4-3 system in October 2016 following a listless 3-0 defeat to Arsenal sparked a sensational run of 13 successive victories and was the catalyst for their title triumph.
This season, however, the former Juventus stalwart seems to be struggling to achieve sustained success with one specific formation, with the change to a more conservative and defensive-minded 3-5-2 criticised following a sequence of goalless draws.