Antonio Conte does little to diffuse talk of Chelsea unrest
The Blues head coach did little to diffuse reports of tension with the hierarchy at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte has suggested history is being repeated at Chelsea.
There have been regular reports of friction between head coach Conte and the Chelsea hierarchy, mostly over transfers.
And the Italian, speaking ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie with one-time Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle, did little to diffuse the situation when given the opportunity to subdue the speculation.
“I continue to work very hard for this club, for the players, for our fans,” said Conte, who led to Chelsea to the 2016-17 Premier League title after the prior season’s implosion under Jose Mourinho.
“But I saw a bit the history of this club in the past and it was the same also for the other coaches.
“I don’t see difference between them and me and other coaches that managed this situation.”
Conte says he predicted a difficult campaign last summer, when he said Chelsea must avoid a “Mourinho season”.
“If you remember at the start of the season I said maybe this will be the most difficult season for me,” the Italian said.
“I think that I have a great capacity to see very long (into the future).
“We have to know that we have to face great difficulties. But if you know this you are more ready to face this type of situation.”
Conte, who earlier this month insisted he would not walk away from Chelsea, was asked if he was discovering the challenges faced by previous Chelsea bosses.
He responded by referencing the number of managers in the 14 years of Roman Abramovich’s ownership, insisting he was “very relaxed” about the prospect of being fired.
“If you look at the stats you can see that in 14 years 10 managers were sacked in this club,” added Conte, who was able to muster a laugh.
“But, when you are sure about your work and that you are doing everything to improve this club and to work in this way with the players, under this aspect I am very relaxed, calm.
“I don’t have this type of worry.”
Conte says he is happy to work with his players and happy to work for the club.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 26, 2018
Conte would have been aware of the challenges at Chelsea due to his friendship with Carlo Ancelotti, who won the 2009-10 title and was sacked a year later.
After winning the league in his first season, when Chelsea were not in Europe following the prior year’s 10th-placed finish, Conte belatedly signed an improved contract, but not an extension. His deal still expires in June 2019.
Chelsea are still in contention in the FA Cup and Champions League, where they face Barcelona in the last-16, reached the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and are third in the Premier League, three points behind second-placed Manchester United and 15 adrift of leaders City.
Asked whether the expectations of Chelsea – whether internal or external – are realistic, Conte said: “It is right to dream and then there is the reality.
“You have to fight the reality to try sometimes to overcome the reality, like last season, and to try to do something special.
“But for sure it is not simple, not easy.”
Ross Barkley, Chelsea’s only signing so far this winter transfer window, is poised to make his full debut against Newcastle following injuries to striker Alvaro Morata (back) and playmaker Willian (hamstring).
Midfielder Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) could return, but goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (ankle) is still out.