Antonio Conte warned his Chelsea players that they are risking a repeat of last season’s disaster unless they work harder, after seeing them beaten 2-1 at home by Liverpool.
This was Conte’s first defeat as Chelsea manager and he went on the attack afterwards, insisting that the defeat was not just his fault but belonged to everyone who worked at the club. Repeatedly referring to last season, he pointed to “something strange” that caused that 10th placed finish, telling his players that they must “feel the danger” or else it might happen again.
Conte’s comments were a very pointed warning to his players that their underperformance last season was not just a freak, but a reflection of problems at the club. He made clear that problems here lie far deeper than the manager, implying that other parts of the club have their own responsibility for underperformance.
“It is not important that this is my first defeat,” said Conte, spreading the blame. “It is our first defeat. This defeat is a Chelsea defeat: the players, the manager, the staff, the people who work at this club.” Chelsea only signed three senior players this summer, Ngolo Kante, Michy Batshuayi and David Luiz, and it is no secret that Conte wanted more in the transfer market than that.
Conte brought up Chelsea’s dismal 2015-16 campaign, the worst by a reigning champion in recent years, as if to point out that the deep-seated problems that caused that have not been adequately addressed yet.
“We must not forget last season,” Conte said. “It’s important, this. Last season was a bad season. I don’t want to repeat it the last season. I repeat, when you finish the season in 10th place, there is something strange. It’s not natural. It’s not simple. When you finish in 10th place, it means that you have to work very hard to improve to make sure you don’t repeat the bad season.”
Conte promised that he would continue to work hard at Cobham, but said that there was a burden on everyone at the club to do more and face up. “The manager, the players, all the people who work for Chelsea must take their responsibility,” he said. “Because we win together and we lose together. I don’t want to repeat a bad season like last year.”
Conte promised to work on the team’s defending and concentration, which let Chelsea down again on Friday night. “We must pay attention in every single moment of the game, in every minute,” he said. “I’m the coach so I must work more on this aspect. Now, it’s not enough. Because this is not the first time this has happened. We must feel the danger in every single moment of the game, if we want to win and think like a great team. Chelsea is a great team, but we must show this in every single game, to pay attention and be focused.” Although the impression he gave was that Chelsea’s problems go deeper than that.