As usual, Antonio Conte gave several post-match interviews after last night’s 2-2 draw at the Emirates against Arsenal. One of those was with Sky Italia, and quotes from that interview are now making their way over to England in the form of sensational headlines. Conte vs. Chelsea Board, round same as it ever was.
“I do not aim high with my requests, especially as in my history I’ve rarely been given the players I asked for. I always ended up at clubs who were running an austerity programme. I just try to do my work. If someone arrives, good, if they don’t, then that’s fine too. I have to continue my work, either way.”
-Antonio Conte; Sky Italia via Football Italia
That was Conte’s answer to a question about transfer plans for January. He then also shrugged off speculation about the Italian national team, adding that he doesn’t want to say anything because it would “only cause misunderstandings”. Perhaps he realized by then that ‘austerity’ will be a word heard round the world.
That said, assuming the translation is okay and Football Italia didn’t cut off any more relevant quotes or context — I haven’t seen a video yet — it is indeed feasible to arrive at the interpretation that it’s a shot at the Chelsea Board. Though FI themselves point out that Conte was (also) referring to his time at Juventus, where he left because of this perceived issue.
As we’ve discussed before, Conte certainly has priors in this sort of situation, though he’s recently also talked about learning to stay patient and he never fails to emphasize that his primary responsibility and job is to improve his current squad, whom he of course loves.
It’s also no secret that Chelsea have one of the lower “net spends” in the Premier League in recent seasons (especially of the “big” teams), with most of the big summer purchases covered by player sales. It’s all part of the plan towards self-sustainability. But, as Conte himself has pointed out, the squad is actually a few viable players larger this season than last (up to 16-17 from 12-13), and while we can debate over quality and priority targets all day, at the end of the day this isn’t FIFA and you can’t just wave a magic wand. At some point, if Conte does eventually get fed up with this perceived burden, then he truly [FUN] off to PSG or wherever he’s rumored to be going next.
As ever, I do not believe any of the involved parties are that naive or that incapable of seeing the world outside of absolutes. Chelsea know that the summer could’ve gone better (as mentioned in several briefs from the club); Conte knows that Chelsea know and they’re all supposedly working together for the short-term and long-term betterment of the club.
Eventually, that relationship will break down or come to an end, perhaps as soon as the summer. History certainly isn’t on our side when it comes to Chelsea hanging onto head coach and Conte staying in any one job for too long. But one thing is for certain, if Conte has an issue with the Board, he’s not going to use Sky Italia (or any other outlet) to “send” a message. He’s not interested in the narrative; he’s interested in winning.