In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte talked briefly about “finding the right balance” between playing the established first-team players and giving chances to the youngsters and the backups.
Here, he elaborates on the decisions and the dilemmas facing him, as well as his expectations from the players.
“When a player does not start he is not happy, but I don’t want him to be happy because I want the player to try to fight to give me problems to solve to find the best selection for the team. I am pleased to have a group of players that are growing very well in all aspects - technical, tactical and mentality, feeling the right responsibility for the season. Believe me, it is not easy to have those type of groups, and we have grown a lot in these seven months. We must continue to improve and put the team above all. Honestly, I am very pleased to observe this.”
We’ve heard a similar line from Mourinho once, but while both coaches seem quite happy to rely on a pretty much set starting eleven — we could name José’s starting eleven in 2014-15 just as easily as we could name Conte’s this year — the big difference so far is what they’ve done when things went sour on them. We saw how Conte was unafraid to throw out the plans and make drastic changes both in terms of personnel and tactics after the back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, and those decisions lend crucial weight to these words now.
“The most important thing is always to have great respect for all, not only to pay most attention to 11 players. For me every single player is the most important. I try always to pay good attention to every single player, I want to give them great respect because I demand this and I think this is the way to have a good dressing room.”
“The best way is to leave your door always open and if I have to make a choice, it is not important to always explain this choice but if the player wants to ask me, the player knows very well that my door is always open to explain the reason why I made this decision. When you are honest in your choices you can always look your player straight in the eye.”
Conte, as he often points out, draws a lot on his own experiences as a player at the very top level of the game and so far, whatever he’s doing seem to be working out just fine. Players such as Cesc Fàbregas and Michy Batshuayi and Asmir Begović have remained committed to the cause even under less than ideal personal circumstances as far as playing time might be concerned. With Begović especially we saw the open and honest dialogue right out in the open, so no one was under any false assumptions or pretenses.
Of course, winning makes the coach’s message, whatever the message may be, easier to take and after the mixed early results, it’s been smooth sailing for much of the season. With a realistic chance at two trophies at this moment, let’s hope that continues.
“We are in his great competition to try to win, not just to find a solution to make someone happy. I have to show always respect to my players and make the best decisions for every game and today for sure I will try to do this.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
There’s no doubting anyone’s commitment to sparkle motion right now.