Conte to go on a signing spree in bid to rebuild Chelsea
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte yesterday promised a "restart" during his unveiling at Stamford Bridge - on just his second day of working with the squad - and is targeting three new signings to help deliver it.
The Italian said that he is determined to start a new era of success at Chelsea, after the worst season of the Roman Abramovich era. Chelsea finished 10th in the Premier League last season after sacking Jose Mourinho in December and replacing him with Guus Hiddink.
"It is not easy," Conte said. "After finishing last season in 10th position, which is very bad, you can restart and try to start a new situation, to try to fight for the title. We can learn a lot from last season."
Conte is a training ground manager who spoke repeatedly about "transferring his ideas" to his squad. But he also knows Chelsea need reinforcements, and said he hopes the club will make as many as three new signings before the season starts.
So far this summer they have signed only Michy Batshuayi, Marseille's Belgian forward, for £32m. But Conte is confident the players will keep coming.
"We are ready," Conte said. "We are talking with the club and we know that we need to reinforce. I am sure that in the coming days we can reach our target to reinforce the team, to get closer to the other teams.
"In the coming days we can buy one, two or three players who can reinforce us for the season. It will be very tough."
To follow the Batshuayi signing, Chelsea are still hoping for another centre-forward to partner him up front. Their priority is Alvaro Morata, recently bought back from Juventus by Real Madrid, but it remains unclear whether Real want to keep or sell him. Conte also wants a new defensive midfielder and after talks collapsed for Roma's Radja Nainggolan, they have switched their attention to Leicester City's N'Golo Kante.
Those are the players that Conte wants, although he said yesterday that there are far more important things to good teams than players alone.
"Leicester give us a great example," Conte - who confirmed John Terry (right) will remain as captain - said. "You can have the best talent, but you must also have a good spirit in your team, a team with good organisation and good players.
"If you have all of those things you can win. You can reach your target."
Conte's job is to rebuild a club that experienced one of the most dramatic collapses in recent history last year, which resulted in Mourinho - now Manchester United boss - being sacked just seven months after winning his third Premier League title. Conte wants his players to move on from that traumatic experience.
"The players know that last season was very, very bad," Conte said. "Not bad, but very, very bad. Every player wants to remove the past. For us the most important thing now is to stay concentrated on the present, to work and to build a great future, because if we remain in the past it is not good for us."
There is a comparison to be made with Juventus, where Conte took over a team that had just finished seventh. He won three consecutive Serie A titles, starting a cycle of success which led to two more under Max Allegri when Conte had left. But Conte said that he hoped it would be "easier" at Chelsea as, when he took over at Juventus in 2011, they were still recovering from the match-fixing scandal and relegation.
"The situation is a bit different," Conte said. "When I arrived in Juventus, they had not won for many years. Chelsea won only one year ago. This situation seems easier, I hope. But it's important for me that I don't change my idea, my philosophy."
Conte is unlikely to have quite the same success at Chelsea as he did at Juventus, and would make no predictions about winning the title.
"We want to go back to challenging for the title very soon," Conte said. "We have the talent, so if we have greater organisation and good strength, we can achieve good results."