When Antonio Conte was officially unveiled as Chelsea head coach almost exactly 16 months ago to the day, he left no doubts about the magnitude of the task ahead of Chelsea as the club attempted to recover from the disastrous 2015-16 season. “I know only this verb: work, work, work,” he famously said in that first press conference, setting the tone and theme for the season ahead and beyond.
It was a theme he’s returned to many times since. He’s added a few more words, too, like fight and improve and ambition and personality and commitment and at least one phrase, even (“pay great attention”), but the overriding theme has remained the same as it ever was: work, work, work. Win? More work. Lose? More work. More work? More work.
This relentless pursuit of winning is not the only thing that Conte brings to the table, but it is what is most readily seen from the outside. And it’s also what has endeared him so quickly to so many.
After Saturday’s loss, Conte returned to that theme, after Chelsea lost back-to-back games for just the second time in his tenure. The first time that happened proved a turning point to the season. Can the same thing happen again? I wouldn’t bet on it, though I also wouldn’t bet against it.
"It is important for us to understand we are trying to build something important for the future. We have changed a lot. The only words I know in these circumstances are 'to work'. Work, work, work. It's a verb."
-Antonio Conte; source: Sky
It’s the verb that needs to be put into action. The squad is set, the injuries are what they are, the work is the only thing in our control. Work on the training ground, work in the tactics room, work during the matches themselves. “The work” is the only way Chelsea got anywhere last season, and it’s the only way we’ll get anywhere now.
So let’s get down to work.