Antonio Conte has once again faced the cameras this afternoon in his pre-match press conference, ahead of Sunday’s derby clash with Spurs at Wembley.
The Blues boss faced a similar bombarding of questioning as in previous week’s, which was fully expected as the problems of a thin squad, AWOL striker and alleged disagreements with the board still surface.
I’ll start with the team news for Sunday. Tiemoue Bakayoko is expected to at least start on the bench and may even sneak into the starting line up, although Conte admitted that would be risky due to him not peaking physical condition since returning from his knee injury. Pedro is a huge doubt still, and Eden Hazard is unlikely to feature at all just yet, even though he’s been in full training since Monday.
Conte was full of praise for young defender Andreas Christensen, and whilst speaking of options to fill in at centre midfield, the Italian stated that “Andreas Christensen, for sure is a player who is ready to play for Chelsea”. Make of that as you will.
Meanwhile, he remained rather coy when questioned about transfers. He said “I have to work with my players but at the end of the transfer market we will see what will happen”
He went on to criticise the state of the current market and suggested that Chelsea are being priced out of some targets “For sure, the price in the transfer market doesn’t help. To buy normal players, you have to spend £40m to £100m”
Interestingly he also avoided questions regarding any regrets about letting Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek leave. This to me once again reiterates the lack of power that Conte has at Chelsea. He can most certainly make his requests and opinions, but it once again says to me that Roman Abramovich and his board are the ultimate decision makers.
And then some humour, Conte laughed hysterically and made what can only be described as the noise of a Hyena, when questioned about Diego Costa, which just about says all you need to know on his thoughts of this subject.
Finally, Conte was full of priase for Spurs, stating that he admired their solid Club structure and foundations at the Club. He even expressed that he had spoken with Chelsea regarding this matter. He said “I want my club to build the same solid foundation [as Spurs]. At the moment we don’t have this, this will take time.”
He went on “I spoke (to board) about Terry, Mikel, Ivanovic even Drogba, we lost a lot of players. Now we need to find the right way to build”
If you look deeper into this, for me this looks like another frustration directed at the board. Spurs build foundations on bringing youngsters through, Chelsea appear to have abolished that. But is this down to Conte? He hasn’t exactly been forthcoming in giving chances to the young players. But then is the pressure to succeed from the board just too intense for him to take risks? Who knows.
It was hard to judge this press conference, Conte seemed happy in general but underneath rather bemused still. I’m not going to make any judgement calls here, let’s wait until the 31st and see who the board manage to get in for him, and let’s see how our season pans out. One thing’s for sure, this is a great Manager who can work miracles, he might have to.
Simon Phillips @SiPhillipsCFC