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Conte puts wins above player happiness

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Everton v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Chelsea have a total of five games left this season — four in the league and the FA Cup final — which means that for the first time in the Abramovich Era, the team will finish the season having played less than 50 games (47 to be exact) in all competitions, six fewer than last season and seven fewer than when we won both the league and a cup in 2014-15.

Given the lack of European competition this season, combined with some favorable scheduling over the more congested periods in the league, Chelsea have had plenty of time to recuperate (and to train) between games. Given an excellent injury record plus success on the pitch, Conte has basically stuck to a set starting eleven plus two subs (Fàbregas and Willian) all season. He probably won’t get away with using just 13 players regularly next season (and that’s partly why we should be making big moves in the summer), but the stable lineups worked wonderfully this season, just as they did for Leicester City the season before and for Chelsea as well the season before that. (Patterns!)

That does however mean that some players were left standing idly by often, while others like Batshuayi or even Willian have played far less than they perhaps expected at the start of the season. But for Conte, this isn’t really a concern. For him, what matters is winning. And if winning doesn’t make you happy as a player — remember, it’s always “win as a team, lose as a team” — then he can’t really help you.

“I’d like to underline a concept about the need to keep players happy. We must win. You can be happy and play every game, but if you are unhappy this season when you are fighting to win the title and the FA Cup, I don’t like it.”

“You [the media] speak about being happy, but I speak about wanting to win and work very hard. My target is to put a winning mentality into the minds of the players. The winning mentality doesn’t exist to keep players happy, because it’s very difficult to keep 20 players happy. I want players who are ready to fight and put themselves in the team to try to win together. If you are happy or unhappy, I don’t care.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

Conte always makes it a point to talk about a player’s mentality, attitude, and willingness to work and improve, regardless of whether they are the first name of the team sheet or the last name on the bench. Of course every player is different and should be handled differently, but the constant is that the team comes first. We’ll deal with happiness issues in the summer.

For now, whether you’re happy or unhappy, whether you’re on the bench, one the pitch, or in the stands, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters now is winning the league, and then winning the Cup.

Even if your name is Diego Costa and you have untold riches waiting for you in China (probably).

“Now it's very important for every single player and person who works for Chelsea to be focused on the present, because the present is very important for us. Now it's more important than the future, to be focused and concentrated, to prepare these five games between now and the end. I'm not worried about this. I see my players every day and I see the right concentration and focus about them.”

“It's the same, the same speech for my players, the same for me. We must stay with great concentration until the end. There is this great target, which is close, and for this reason I think we must think in the present. At this part of the season there are a lot of speculations about my players, also about me, but it's not important. Not important, this. The most important thing now is to try and reach our target.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Independent