Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” What Mourinho said throughout the season, what Pep said, what all the
stupid smart pundits said matter very little in the grand scheme of things. When this season is over, what Conte said and what the board said, or didn't, will be what’s etched into our memories. Conte couldn't even get something as small as a vote of confidence from the board, even after he asked for it.
“Maybe I’d like that the club to prepare a statement for me to tell [the media], ‘I trust in his job, I trust in his work.”
-Antonio Conte; February, 2018
For now, however, the season is still kicking as we go into the last Premier League match and the penultimate match of this ultimately disappointing season. Chelsea have a 2% chance of qualifying for Champions League, The math is fairly simple, we need to win and Liverpool need to lose; any other result and we’ll end up in Korçë, Albania playing away to Skënderbeu Korçë on a Thursday night quicker than we can say “It was the manager’s fault.”
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s match against Newcastle, Antonio Conte spoke about his past— experience in the last two seasons, the present— not giving up on top four and the future— can Chelsea bounce back next season without Champions League. First things first, i.e, injuries and team news, Conte said that Thibaut Courtois is back in contention and apart from that, no new news. Good, now since that’s settled, let’s get into it!
We have to try to reach both targets[FA Cup and top four]. Not easy, as you know very well the situation is not in our hands. We have to try to get three points against Newcastle and hope something positive for us. About the FA Cup, I think we must be focused on the league to finish in the best way.
Newcastle away has been a bit of a nightmare fixture for us and Liverpool playing against Brighton at Anfield, needing only a point after a full week’s rest, just makes it worse. The combination of these two things makes it near impossible for us to finish in the top four but we must try and put our best foot forward. Maybe, the fate will shine upon us and Liverpool lose not only against Brighton but in the Champions League final as well, and take our spot in Europa.
Conte on not being in the UCL: "I don't know, but we must know that there is this possibility because we play in a strong this. You have to know this and prepare in the right way because there are six top teams ready to fight for a place. In the past, it happened the same" #CFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) May 11, 2018
Conte on Chelsea's struggles: "In the past it happened the same... but they were not in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, not in the FA Cup final and they got eiliminated from the last-16 of the UCL by PSG." #CFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) May 11, 2018
Moving on, Conte was asked about Chelsea’s struggles this season, the implications of not finishing on the top four and whether this was a comparable or worse than the 2015-16 season where the Blues finished 10th.
First of all, no evidence is needed to ascertain if a 5th placed finish is better than a 10th placed one and why the esteemed reporter was so excited about this question, as if he had ascended to Zeitgeist is beyond the understanding of the writer of this article.
For instance, our 6th placed finish in 2011-12 was better than the present one because we had a trophy to show for it but in 2015-16, we didn’t even win a trophy. We couldn’t even win the damn Community Shield against Arsenal at the beginning of the season, so the question of whether a 10th placed finish is better than a 5th placed is quite ridiculous and Sisyphean. I mean, if you need to ask...
“Last season United and Arsenal were fifth and sixth. It won’t be easy and it is not automatic that every season when you finish, you finish in the top four”
“Last season after 10th place, we won. It was difficult, we worked very hard and we won after 10th place. After finishing fifth, you start with less disadvantage than when you finish 10th.”
Conte was also asked if this season was a failure and how difficult will it be to attract top quality targets without the prospect of Champions League football. Of course, Chelsea won the league after finishing 10th but a lot of things worked in our favour, for example, Kante’s release clause allowed us to get a world class midfielder for a paltry sum and the fact that Manchester City and Manchester United both had new managers at their helm was quite helpful as well.
There is also the issue of comparing Chelsea with Manchester United and Arsenal who both finished outside of top four last season. For one, Manchester United did win the Europa League, thereby qualifying for the Champions League, thus, their example doesn’t apply to us and Arsenal have indeed struggled in the transfer market, as is proven by their 6th placed finish this season.
Following this, Conte was asked if this has been a hard season for him, to which he replied, “Do you think?” Afterwards he added that, overall, his two years as the Chelsea head coach has been a fantastic experience for him. Well, one Premier League title and maybe one FA Cup as well, is indeed quite good. He was also asked whether he disliked the season to which he replied, as was expected, that he didn’t. Of course, he can’t go on record and say that this season has given him stomach ulcers now can he.¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Conte on whether he has disliked this season: "No, absolutely not. Why? I think this league is great. It is the toughest league in the world and we compete in this league against so many clubs that are very strong... I am very happy for last season and this season" #CFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) May 11, 2018
Of course, no Conte conference is complete without the reporters asking him about his future as a Chelsea head coach and our future without him. This time, the reporters one upped their previous efforts and asked him about how does he feel about all the constant speculation surrounding his future. Well, first of all, I don’t know, Jeff. I wonder where all that speculation came from! Second, that’s quite META.
It is the same as I live the whole year. I have been living with it since the start. I always say with you, my thought is to do my job in the best way. Since the start of the first game I think I don’t listen to them.
And thus, we come to the end of [probably] Conte’s penultimate pre-match press conference as Chelsea head coach. Hopefully, the effect of the new kit affects the players and we see a new Chelsea on Sunday against Newcastle and end this Premier League season on a high.