Antonio Conte has warned troubled champions Chelsea not to look for excuses after their turbulent start to the season.
Since Chelsea won the title last term, Conte has endured a surprisingly difficult period that shows no signs of abating heading into Sunday’s clash with title rivals Tottenham at Wembley.
Not only has Conte feuded with Chelsea striker Diego Costa after sending him into exile, the Italian has clashed with his employers over the terms of his contract, the make up of his coaching staff and the club’s failure to land his top transfer targets.
The problems have spilled onto the pitch as Chelsea lost the Community Shield against Arsenal before having two players sent off in a stunning home defeat against Burnley on the opening day of the season.
But Blues boss Conte insists the crisis can’t be allowed to affect his players and he called on them to show some character against Tottenham.
“You know very well our situation after these two red cards, but we are preparing very well,” Conte told reporters on Friday.
“We must be focused on the game, We don’t find excuses. A great club like Chelsea must be prepared for this situation.
“I’m not worried about this. For sure at this moment it’s not simple.
“It’s not easy. We must be strong to face this situation. It’s very important not to find excuses or alibis.
“It’s important to continue to work. Then we can solve this situation.”
Conte knows there is a growing perception that his club is in crisis just months after their title victory.
But the former Juventus coach says the loss of key players in the close-season has created a leadership vacuum in the squad that will take time to fill.
“We lost a lot of players that created the previous foundation; Terry, Mikel, Ivanovic,” he said.
“I knew very well this season would be very difficult for us. We won the league and reached the FA Cup final with only 13 players.
“Last season we struggled a lot but we worked well. We were lucky not to have injuries.
“The club knows this, I was clear with them. We have to be ready to fight this situation, not to find excuses.
“In my career I never found an easy situation, this is my story.”
– Take some risks –
Conte’s calls for patience couldn’t hide the sense that he knows he will be harshly judged in the Stamford Bridge corridors of power if results go against him.
Having struck out on several attempts to strengthen his squad while selling Nemanja Matic to Manchester United, Conte is short of midfield options.
With that in mind, he hinted he might rush Tiemoue Bakayoko, a close-season signing from Monaco, into his debut against Tottenham, even though the midfielder isn’t completely recovered from injury.
“Do you think its a good time for us to play Spurs? I dont think its a good time to play them,” Conte groaned.
“Bakayoko is not at the top physical condition but I think he could be in contention for the game.
“In this moment I don’t have other midfielders available. We have to take some risks.”
Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas are suspended, while many of the young players Conte used when his squad was stretched last season have been allowed to leave.
Asked if he would have preferred to keep the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathan Ake, the fragile relationship between Conte and his bosses was exposed when he said with a grimace: “Another question please.
“Last season I used young players. Chalobah, Loftus-Cheek, Ake and Kenedy played.”