Antonio Conte touched on a few of his newly recurring themes after Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Southampton, including his commitment to the club, the long-term plan of building a new core, and doing our utmost to fight against the likes of Manchester City, who can easily outspend just about any other club in the world, including Chelsea.
With City rewriting the Premier League history books, it’s easy to forget that they have spent vast sums on improving a squad that had not won the Premier League since 2014. That shouldn’t necessarily detract from Guardiola’s accomplishments, but it should serve as warning for the future since there is nothing stopping them from doing that again this summer, and the summer after that, and so on.
“Every team, every club, must pay great attention. Because if a club like Manchester City takes all the best, it will be very difficult for us to fight. Not only in England but in Europe. If they can do this it is right for them to do this.”
Chelsea can outspend the vast majority of clubs, but when it comes to the best of the best targets, we face an uphill battle. In those situations, Chelsea have to spend carefully, smartly, and surgically — which will result in situation such as Danilo choosing Manchester City or Fernando Llorente choosing Spurs.
“I think when you have this opportunity to go in the market to spend a lot of money, I think it is right to do this. You must obviously be very good to spend your money in this way. You must be clever to understand the positions, the roles you have to improve.”
For Chelsea, the number on priority remains to continue to transition the squad, from the last remnants of the Old Guard to the new core for the next decade and beyond. Signings such as Bakayoko, Morata, Rüdiger (or Kanté from last year) all fall into that category and it’s those types of players where Chelsea have to beat other big teams to the punch and try to find value.
“I think last season we did a fantastic job but this job is continuing this season. We are trying to change the average age of our team. I think for a club like Chelsea it is very important to start to do this, if you want to create a new base and face the future with confidence.”
Part of that confidence stems from stability at the club, and while it would be unrealistic to expect Conte to oversee the entire transition and next phase of the club, for now, he’s once again strongly dismissed any speculation regarding his own future. The stability comments are perhaps telling in light of recent stories about unnamed players choosing not to join Chelsea because they weren’t sure Conte would be around for much longer. Michael Emenalo also opined recently (when he was in-between jobs) that Conte’s position at Chelsea is much stronger than rumors would have you believe.
“Every day there is speculation about my future. It’s not right because I think I deserve a bit of respect for what I did last season, for what I am doing this season. To read every week: ‘Next season the club contacts this coach or this coach’ - for me this is not a problem. But it can create problems with the players because the players believe we could [drift] apart.
“I have another year on my contract, so in this moment my focus is total, to improve my players, to try to improve the team, to try to improve the club. If you understand a bit [about] football there is a moment you must have great patience, to know that someone is working very well.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Telegraph
Chelsea may be “only” third, but in most other years, would be in the middle of a title fight with 38 points from 18 games. This season, that’s only good enough for a top four showdown against the rest of the non-City top six.
Conte will of course be judged by other aspects of the season as well — League Cup, FA Cup, and most importantly, the Champions League all await — and we should not pretend that the league couldn’t have gone better than it has (losing to Burnley, Palace, and West Ham should not happen), but overall, there’s no need to be pressing any panic buttons anytime soon. (For either him or the club, to be fair.) Now is the time to be realistic in our aims and appreciative of our accomplishments.