Chelsea's return to the pitch in the 2-0 loss to Rapid Wien in the first game of 2016-17 preseason showed a team still very much in the process of gaining fitness and learning the ideas of a new manager.
While it would be entirely too soon to expect the squad to change for the better -- Conte has had less than a week to work alongside his players in training sessions -- it can be tough to stay patient and concentrate on the process and the learning rather than the results themselves.
As we've learned over the years, patience hasn't exactly been in overabundance at Chelsea, but the way Michael Emenalo's talking, perhaps the Board and the owner have mellowed a bit lately. They did give Mourinho Mk.II a far longer leash than any other manager before, after all.
"The only thing that is difficult for [Conte] is that he's just come from working with players who understood his methods and it was probably easy. Coming from that and going into a completely different new arena to try to introduce your methods again is a little bit disconcerting."
"But he is an experienced manager and understood that. We all know that it will take time. We have a mix of players at different stages of their physical development in terms of the preseason."
"All in all, it's a good test. The next three days will be much better and in a couple of weeks we should be ready."
Last season, Emenalo and the Chelsea Board came under fire for their perceived lackadaisical approach to the transfer window, as the club missed out on crucial transfer targets (arguably, only the Asmir Begovic signing went according to plan) and signed a bunch of useless parts instead. While this summer started off slowly as well, the signings of Michy Batshuayi and, especially, N'Golo Kanté, have been a welcome change of pace and a sign that the club won't be repeating the mistakes of last year.
Speaking about the signings, Emenalo praised Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for backing the team, and said that Kanté is a perfect fit for Conte's plans.
"It just shows we are very lucky to have the kind of owner who understands what we need and is always willing to support that need. He has always been very generous with every single manager that has been here and once again he has responded. We are very grateful and the fans should be happy."
"We are building toward something and we are not just looking at what other people are doing. We have our targets and are working very carefully to achieve our aims."
"Kanté is an exciting signing for our fans, but especially for the manager because he fits perfectly with the way he wants to play football. We welcome a very young talent, who is already very experienced and we are looking forward to working with him. I think he is delighted to come to Chelsea and he will make us better."
-Michael Emenalo; Source: Chelsea TV via London Evening Standard
Sounds like there is a plan, and there is agreement over the plan across all stakeholders. Another welcome change of pace.
The Board of directors and Emenalo should be lauded for their work in convincing Batsuayi and Kanté to join a Champions League-less Chelsea side. Thus far, it's been a good transfer window. But no resting on their laurels just yet!