Chelsea manager Antonio Conte' has had a another set back this after losing their League Cup semi-final. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters

Chelsea were a goal up when the first chorus of ‘Antonio’ went up from 3,800 away supporters behind Willy Caballero’s goal.

Antonio Conte was too worked up to notice, flexing and twisting in his technical area with his coat unzipped and whistling around in the wind.

The Italian went through his full repertoire of pitch-side gesticulations and he brought a roar of amusement when he ordered Ross Barkley to heel like Barbara Woodhouse when it was time for him to replace Willian.

He was so close to Wembley, and more silverware, something tangible to back up his pre-match claims that this was already a ‘successful season’.

And yet Arsenal have proved stubborn opponents for him and this game threatened to swerve in one direction and then the other.

The pin-ball deflections fell in favour of the home team and as Chelsea slipped behind on the hour another trophy faded from view.

Conte is a restless soul at the best of times and this season is threatening to lead him into the sort of territory he had consigned to the past.

Not for eight years, when he quit Atalanta after being confronted by angry ultras having failed to rescue the team from a slide towards relegation has he encountered anything approaching failure.

He returned at Siena in Serie B and led them to promotion, moved swiftly on to a hat-trick of titles in three years at Juventus and won the Premier League in his debut season at Stamford Bridge.

Two years in charge of Italy, which ended in defeat on penalties against Germany in the last eight of Euro 2016, have acquired a miraculous quality since the subsequent failure to qualify for this year’s World Cup finals.

The title is out of reach this season and Conte has been locked in a fractious internal tussle about transfer policy for months.

Ever since missing out on the Double when beaten by Arsenal in the FA Cup final in May, things seem to have unravelled for the Italian.

It started with the exiling of Diego Costa and missed targets such as Romelu Lukaku and Alex Sandro and an indifferent pre-season and defeat on penalties in the Community Shield. Again, it was Arsene Wenger’s team in the way.

And, with the transfer market again open, Conte had given his feelings another airing again on the eve of this second leg, frustrated by Chelsea’s inability to compete financially for Alexis Sanchez as he joined Manchester United on weekly wages of £450,000.

None of this will have escaped the attention of Wenger, who took Henrikh Mkhitaryan in exchange for Sanchez and while the new signing adorned the cover of the programme he was unable to feature because he was cup-tied.

Mkhitaryan settled in to watch his new team from the bench behind Wenger, who was in Conte’s position when Roman Abramovich turned up at Stamford Bridge and blew the wage structure into another orbit.

Since then, Chelsea have reached 13 finals, winning nine of them, and lifted the title five times.

Conte was wrong to think last season’s heroics would convince the owner to open the bank vault once again. This may be a slightly different Chelsea: not one afraid to spend but one keen to maximise value and balance the books.

Conte’s six outfield substitutes at the Emirates cost about £150m and Barkley was on before half-time when Willian was injured.

Compared to the Arsenal bench, it was a strong array of options. Wenger had two teenage strikers, a range of defensive options and Aaron Ramsey at his disposal but the Frenchman fiddled with his formation and that was enough to transform the early deficit into a second-half lead.

As the Arsenal manager retreated to his seat, Conte threw more substitutes at the situation. It was painful to watch and, for a serial winner, it was tough to swallow.

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