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Conte warns Chelsea ‘must be very cold’ in analyzing ‘incredible’ season

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Arsenal v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It’s been an excellent season in the SW6, but Saturday’s FA Cup final loss to Arsenal is a rather stinging final note to the tale. Disappointment was palpable for the fans and the players as well, though they’ll have no one to blame other than themselves, despite the massive injustice served up by Anthony Taylor in the 5th minute that set the tone for the rest of the game.

While declaring his intention not to leave Chelsea, Diego Costa also lamented the fact that the season ends with defeat, thus taking the shine off the team’s great accomplishments in the Premier League.

“I wish this final was played before the end of the league so we wouldn't finish with this feeling just after winning the Premier League. To play a beautiful final like this and lose is a little bitter, but that's football.”

-Diego Costa; source: Goal

There was no bitterness in Antonio Conte’s immediate analysis. The Chelsea head coach, who’s about to sign his well deserved contract extension (£9.6m annually for four years, a Chelsea record), instead paid tribute to the Herculean effort of his players this season while warning that we must improve and make some cold, hard decisions this summer.

“Now the most important thing is to give a correct evaluation of our season because for me it was incredible. Every single player performed at 120 or 130 per cent in every game. We didn’t have many injuries. It’s very important to understand this. Our season was incredible because every player worked very hard and next season for sure we must pay great attention to understand we have to improve in terms of numbers and quality. That’s very important and we must be very cold when we analyse the situation and understand this season we did something great.”

The theme that we will be hammering home for the next two months is to not repeat the mistakes of 2015 and 2010, the last two times we’ve won the league. In both of those summers, Chelsea found it hard, either by choice or by circumstance, to properly refresh the squad. The rest of the league improved; we did not. If anything, we regressed by virtue of complacency (of which we already saw signs today). There were other factors, too, of course (Mourinho’s shenanigans, for example, did not help one bit last season), but the club dropped the ball when it came to the transfer market and we paid the price for it, a price that included sacking both managers who are generally regarded as the two best Chelsea managers of the modern era.

For Conte to avoid the same cold fate (new contract or no new contract), a few very cold decisions will have to be made this summer. Whether that means selling players, loaning out a few others, spending big where needed, or some combination of all of the above, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that just because we won the league with these 13-14 regulars, we could do the same next season as well (even before we start taking the Champions League into account).

“This season has been a great one for us, to win the league with 30 victories, and reach the final of the FA Cup is incredible. My players must keep in their mind our fantastic season and also this final, because you have to reach this point to play the final. We must be proud.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

What Chelsea and Conte accomplished this season should be celebrated. Premier League titles don’t come along every day, not even at Chelsea. But as Conte so eloquently put it recently, winners don’t relive history, they continue to make it.

The 2016-17 season is over. It’s time to get back to work.

(Okay fine, take a few weeks holiday.)