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Manchester United Chelsea’s first target, as Conte puts the pressure on ahead of Swansea City

Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Manchester City’s remarkable, record-setting start to the season has left all others well off the pace, with Guardiola’s (so-far-)invincibles dropping just two points from their first thirteen matches. This has caused at last one of the “Sky Six” to drop out of the title race, with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino ruling out his side from contention even before their loss to Leicester City on Tuesday, which has left them with just 4 points from their last 5 games.

So who’s going to “put the pressure on” this season if LOL-Spurs are already out? Perhaps it will be Manchester United? Perhaps Chelsea? Conte did talk a bit about pressure in his pre-match press conference yesterday, though it was more in the context of his own team and players, especially with so-called “easier” games coming up in the next few weeks.

“Last season we started without this pressure, but pressure is very important. If there is not pressure, I put pressure on: to myself, to my players, to my club. Pressure is a vital part if you want to create something important and to win.”

While it would be foolish to claim a strong chance of catching up with Manchester City — unless they hit a rough patch, they aren’t likely to drop 11 points just as Chelsea aren’t likely to win the rest of our games this season — setting intermediary goals to keep us near-orbit of any hiccups is the order of the day, and that begins with catching back up with Manchester United after that gap increased to three points over the weekend.

“Our target must be to look at the team who is in front of us, in this case Manchester United. Our first target is to try to catch them up, and if we are able to do this, then we can see who is the team who stays in front of us. This must be our mentality.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

Above all, as it’s been said many times before, we have to look only at ourselves. Whether you’re leading the league by 10 points or battling relegation, at this point of the season, the only thing that matters is your own team.

“We must be focused to go game by game and go with my players to take as many points as possible. To try to reduce this gap to Manchester United and then we have to try to do this with Manchester City.”

One obvious way that Conte could be helped in this task is via reinforcements in January, though Chelsea have been rather reticent to spend big in the winter ever since signing Fernando Torres and David Luiz back in January 2011. But as much as Conte insisted that “now is not the right moment to talk about this topic”, he couldn’t resist talking just a little bit about the situation for next month and beyond.

“I think about this topic but it is better if my club ask me what I need to catch them up and then I will answer, but in a private way. We are in November and now we have to fight with this squad and I want to repeat that I am very happy to work with these players and try to do our best [this season].

“If one day the club try to ask me something about this topic, I can give my opinion but at the same time I am very happy to work for this club with these players. The club knows very well we are trying to build something important for the present and for the future.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Guardian

That last line should be familiar if you’ve been paying attention this season as Conte’s trotted it out a fair few times as a mission statement for Chelsea building a new core of younger key players and Conte overseeing their development, at least for this season. While planning more than just a few months ahead often can seem like a futile task, an overarching game-plan must be in place (with or without a Director of Football). That may or may not involve much activity in January — again, the latter case is much more likely even if juicy rumors will have you believe others (Alex Sandro, Aubameyang, et al. are already starting to make the rounds again) — but if we are to consistently remain among the top teams in England, we must remain active in the market as well.

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