ESPN has published a piece on Conte's thoughts regarding the possibility of an upcoming transfer window in which Chelsea isn't able to offer the strong lure of Champions League football, an undeniably important factor in the process of recruiting new players for the 2018/19 season.
“Don’t forget that two years ago, Chelsea finished 10th with many players of this season, and they decided to continue to play for this club. I think this is not a question for me, it’s a question for the players.
I don’t know if it’s a problem to attract a great player or not [without Champions League football]. If you remember last season we won the title, and then you can see our transfer market. I think this is not the most important thing, if you win or stay in the Champions League.
I think for the result of our team, like last season when we won the title and reached the FA Cup final, it’s always the same. We must be ready to share the responsibility with the club, with the players, with me and my staff.”
-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN
While it's true that Chelsea's star players such as Eden Hazard decided to stay after the disastrous 2015/16 campaign (not like they had much choice being contracted to the club), one can argue that a season outside the top 4 was presumably perceived as an anomaly back then, something that wouldn't repeat itself anytime soon. Well, we wouldn't be Chelsea Football Club if we had learnt from our past mistakes and thus I have my doubts whether this season's shortcomings would lead to us getting off as lightly as we did back then.
Many players' contracts, which expire in the next year or two, have to be renegotiated and someone like Hazard or Courtois might very well start looking for something else. I'm not saying that this will definitely happen but it's arguably more probable than it was 2 years ago, especially if one takes into account that nobody can quite say in which long-term direction the club is going in regard to transfers, the continuous speculation surrounding Antonio Conte also representing a contributing factor to the overall uncertainty.
At the moment, we can merely hope that it doesn't come to this kind of situation and that Chelsea find themselves in the top four come the end of May.