Antonio Conte has not given up on this season’s Premier League title just yet — unlike, say, Maruricio Pochettino at Spurs — but Manchester City’s record-setting form (no one has won more points after 13 games than their 37) means that Chelsea are 11 points behind despite only being 5 points worse off than this time last season. That gap is not insurmountable, but it’s not looking probable at the moment, to say the least.
Realistically, it looks like five teams will be fighting it out for the remaining three positions in the top four, and with just six points separating second place Manchester United from sixth place Liverpool, that fight will likely go on until the end of the season. Either way, Chelsea will have to concentrate on putting together a nice winning streak over the winter months.
Prognostications of titles for City and United are nothing new. Same was expected last season before Conte drove Chelsea to an incredible title, a repeat of which was always going to be an even tougher challenge. Not rising to that challenge could be deemed failure — and given our own and Conte’s own history, may yet be doomed to failure even without any actual failure occurring in real life — or it could be looked at a bit more objectively.
“My expectations are always the same - to try to do our best. I think we are doing this and I think in this league, we started with the two favourite teams [as] the two Manchesters. Then I think Chelsea, like last season, wasn't a favourite.
“Despite this, we want to fight every game, we want to improve and I think we are trying to build something important for the present but especially for the future. You must have patience and work with the club in the right way.”
Manchester City have been building to this point for several years — they have not won the league since 2013-14, finishing second, fourth, and third since — and now they are reaping their rewards. Given that Chelsea no longer wield financial power on their level (or on the levels of United, PSG, Real Madrid, etc.), smart longer-term planning is even more important. That doesn’t necessarily mean keeping Conte around forever, though it would help to have a solid Director of Football once again to help set the direction of the club.
“Manchester City's path is incredible, no? I think Manchester City in this season is a strong team. Also last season, Manchester City was a fantastic team. Then, after the transfer market, they bought their first targets and then they have improved a lot. They can do this also in January maybe, in the future.
“For this reason we must be worried because if we want to compete with Manchester City we have to work and then make the best decisions in the transfer market.”
Conte’s quotes about the transfer market are getting picked up for the loudest headlines, but smart transfers is only part of his assessment of what Chelsea need to do to keep pace with City not only this season, but, more importantly, in the future. Patience and hard work is what will pay off not only in the present, but in the future as well.
“This season, there is another challenge. We lost a lot of good players compared to last season, we lost two important players [Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic], but at the same time we bought young players.
“I think these young players have a good future for Chelsea and I think we are building something important for the future. But at the same time, it's very important to be patient. When you see this type of performance [against Liverpool] you must be pleased.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Independent
If last season’s theme was to reignite the flames of a proverbially dying squad into a blazing inferno, this season’s theme is to build something important for the future. It’s a lot harder to quantify success in the latter scenario, which we’re seeing already this season. Everything’s easy when you’re winning all the time. Patience isn’t easy — regardless of whether we’re talking about the owner, the head coach, the players, the media, or, for that matter, the fans in general. But that is what we have to keep in mind as we head into the middle-third of the season.