As it usually happens after a loss, Antonio Conte struck a downbeat, emotionally exhausted figure in his post-match press conference. He is a man who lives every kick, every play, every action, right along with his players. The emotional sucker-punch is doubly true in a game of such massive magnitude as Sunday’s visit to Old Trafford, where Chelsea looked in control for almost the entire first-half, but an unlucky bounce, one defensive breakdown, another woodwork, and one wrongly disallowed goal meant that the Blues slinked back down south (and out of the top four as it stands) with zero points.
If you’re curious to see what a downbeat Conte looks like, check out the video at the top. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this a few too many times over the past couple months, and not just in press conferences, but even during matches such as the Watford debacle. That was a bit too much for some, including Conte’s own father who told him in no uncertain terms to pull it together.
While Conte may not have gotten the result on Sunday that he (and we) would’ve wanted, he was back to his usual animated self during the game. Afterwards he was obviously not in a great mood, but was quick to reassert his desire to set things right.
“Now is not important to look the past, and then to speak about the past, about this, about another situation, could be this.
“No. Now is important to be concentrated and try to solve the problems that we are having in the present. Then at the end of the season we’ll see if we worked well together.”
In true Conte style, even after a bitter loss that is sure to reignite the firestorm about his future, he refused to throw his players under the bus. He did talk in strong terms about the need for VAR, about the need to manage these sorts of games and game-situations better, and about the overall disappointment of the weekend, but he also defended the players, including specifically one whom he took off surprisingly early and one whom he left on surprisingly for the whole game.
In fairness to Morata, were it not for the linesman’s errant flag, he would’ve scored the game-tying goal in what was his first start in 10 games, dating back to December 26th.
“[Morata] played for 90 minutes and I think like the other players they tried to put everything, to give to the team all of ourselves. For sure he can improve, can improve a lot, but uhh…. I can take different decision, I go game by game, today the best decision for the team.
“Because I repeat this season would be very important for us to have balance, balance offensively and defensively. Otherwise if I think only to attack and not to defend we risk every time to concede a goal and to lose the game.”
The press conference of course would not have been complete without someone asking about the “feud” with Mourinho, even after both coaches talked down the incident(s) prior to the match.
“No [dispute], I repeat. You wanted to see the shake hands and we did this. Now stop.”
“The shake hands.” Love it.
So, where do Conte and Chelsea go from here? You already know the answer to this. It’s the same as it ever was. The manager probably says this in his sleep (on those increasingly rare nights when he’s able to catch some z’s.)
“I think we must be ready to fight, must be ready to understand this, to be concentrated and to understand that this target (top four) is very, an important target for us but it won’t be easy.”
Chelsea (and all of us) will have a full week to stew about all this until the next big event, Sunday on the sky blue side of Manchester. Time to batten down the hatches, the CRISIS is once again upon us and this time it might be more than just a storm warning.