Blues stumble but Conte unmoved
CHELSEA coach Antonio Conte said he had a clear conscience over the slump in form of the English champion after a second heavy Premier League defeat in less than a week and promised he would not lose any sleep over the prospect of losing his job.
“Tomorrow is another day,” he told reporters as his 10-man side was hammered 4-1 at mid-table Watford on Monday after conceding three late goals. “I can be Chelsea coach or not. What is the problem? I go to sleep without a problem.”
In contrast with his first season in London, when Chelsea cruised to the title, the Blues are 19 points adrift of runaway leader Manchester City and are one point away from dropping out of the top-4 UEFA Champions League qualifying spots.
At a club which has seen a steady flow of managers come and go since Roman Abramovich took over as owner in 2003, Conte knows his position is increasingly tenuous but said he was working as hard as he could to turn things around.
The Italian has called on the Chelsea board to end the uncertainty over his future by publicly confirming it trusts in his work but votes of confidence are rare at Stamford Bridge.
Conte has repeatedly spoken openly about his frustration that Chelsea failed to match the big signings made by the Manchester clubs, City and United, before the season and he returned to the subject after the Watford defeat.
“I tried to warn everyone about the difficulty of our path in the league and Champions League,” said the Italian, whose struggling side faces a tough last-16 tie against Barcelona in Europe’s top European club competition later this month.
Once more the Italian lined up without a recognized striker at Vicarage Road with Alvaro Morata sidelined by injury and new-signing Olivier Giroud deemed fit enough only for a place on the bench.
But Conte also accepted some of the blame for the slump in form that saw Chelsea lose 0-3 at home to Bournemouth last week before Monday’s loss — the first time it has suffered consecutive defeats by a margin of three goals since 1995.
“I try to continue to work, to improve the different aspects of my players, but today I think our performance was very poor and for sure I have to a take the responsibility because maybe I took the wrong decision for the (starting) XI.”
“For sure it is a difficult moment and if we want to find excuses we can find everything — tiredness and injuries. But this is not my way,” added the 48-year-old former Italy coach.
“I hope that tonight for once you understand me — I am not worried about my job. I work very hard and I give 120 percent.”
Chelsea’s task wasn’t made any easier when Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off after just half an hour for two quickfire bookable offenses.
Troy Deeney’s penalty put the hosts in front just before the break, but Chelsea was offered a lifeline eight minutes from time by a brilliant 25-yard strike from Eden Hazard.
And Conte was particularly annoyed with his side’s reaction in the closing stages as it conceded three times in the final six minutes to Daryl Janmaat, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra.