Press Conference Analysis: Chelsea's Antonio Conte on transfers, Everton and Champions League draw

Antonio Conte eased the pressure on his shoulders with his side’s win over Tottenham last weekend but went into his pre-match press conference ahead of a fixture against Everton knowing exactly what one of the hot topics would be. Football.London report on the meeting between the coach and the media, as journalists looked to dig for information on the club’s transfer plans with one week left of the current window as Conte responded by saying:

“For me it’s very important to continue to improve, to continue to work with my players on the pitch and to continue to improve my team. The club is trying to strengthen our squad, our team, they are working very hard to do this. But you have to continue to work. If we continue to stay with these players I’m very happy, I’m very happy. Honestly I think my focus is only on the pitch and then there is the club. The club is working very hard to try to change our team and our squad and then we’ll see what happens at the end of the transfer market.”

Conte is clearly hoping for more additions in the coming days, despite having splashed the cash on the likes of Tiemoue Bakayoko, Alvaro Morata and Antonio Rudiger already this summer. However, he did make it clear that he would continue at Stamford Bridge regardless of the transfer activity in the coming days as he said:

“I think it’s not important to feel strong, it’s important to show you’re strong on the pitch. In every case we have to continue to work. If the club is very good in the transfer market to get new players I will be very happy otherwise I repeat I will continue to work with my players and I’m happy to work with these players that we have.”

He will stay and one of the biggest challenges that he will face will be emerging from a difficult Champions League group including Atletico Madrid, Roma and Qarabag. Conte admitted that the Blues will face some challenging ties but refused to rule his side out as he revealed:

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“It’s a tough group stage but when you play this type of competition you must be prepared to face strong teams, the best teams in Europe. I think in this moment it’s very difficult to tell whether it’s a good group or a bad group. It’s important to play well in this type of game and to try to perform our best.”

Journalists were quick to point out that Conte would be forced to make changes to his side, something that he was reluctant to do last season. With the added pressure of extra fixtures, the Italian should be experienced enough from his time at Juventus at handling the extra strain and he made it clear that it would take a team effort to overcome the challenges ahead. He explained:

“We are going to play seven games in a month and I need to rotate the players because if someone is thinking I can only use 11 or 13 players it’s impossible because I have to rotate. We must be ready to face this situation… I think every challenge is for me, the club, the players and the fans – not just for me. We think with “us” not with “I” and I think this is very important. We are trying to strengthen our squad and if we are in the transfer market it means we need to improve the squad, it’s logical. Otherwise we stay.”

First up though, the Blues will face Everton at a time when they have had a great start to the season after a strong summer of heavy investment. Conte praised his counterpart Ronald Koeman and highlighted just how difficult Sunday’s clash will be for the home side as he said:

“For sure Koeman builds a really strong team, but also last season Everton was a strong team. I think this season they have improved a lot and we must pay great attention on Sunday because for sure this type of game will be difficult for us. But it’s very important after a really good win over Tottenham to continue in this way.”

Conte called on some of his summer arrivals to step up too. Whilst journalists did look to criticise players like Alvaro Morata, Conte claimed that he is happy with his efforts. The Italian outlined the issues facing his summer arrivals and his happiness with their progress as he elaborated, saying:

“Morata is improving a lot. Morata and don’t forget Bakayoko, he’s working with us from 10 days – to go in to a new style of football is not simple because you have to understand movement, you have to understand when to attack the space, when to stay and receive the ball. There are many situations to understand and Morata is improving his physical addition a lot and to adapt himself in this style of football. Bakayoko is doing the same.”

He also provided an update on the fitness of forward Eden Hazard. The left sided winger has not yet returned to first team action but has been called up to the Belgian national team, who face two crucial World Cup qualifiers next week. Conte was only just informed, but reacted by saying:

“I think the only player that’s not fully fit is Hazard and he’s improving. Today in the afternoon he’s playing with the U23s against Everton but he’s not fully fit. All the other players are available… I knew the news [that Belgium had included Hazard in the squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers] just 20 minutes ago, for sure I’m a bit surprised about this decision. Yeah I was a coach for a national team with Italy and I respect the decision of the coach [Roberto Martinez].”

Chelsea fans will be desperate to see their number ten back in action as quickly as possible, but will be buoyed that a return is not too far away. For now though, their focus, like Conte’s, will be on getting three points this weekend.

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