Conte laughs off sack talk

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

An­to­nio Conte in­sists he has no rea­son to fear for his fu­ture at Chelsea af­ter book­mak­ers sus­pended bet­ting on the Ital­ian be­ing sacked. Conte has only been in charge at Stam­ford Bridge since July, but he had to an­swer ques­tions about his job se­cu­rity yes­ter­day fol­low­ing heavy bet­ting on his im­mi­nent dis­missal 24 hours ear­lier.

Chelsea owner Ro­man Abramovich is no­to­ri­ous for act­ing quickly when he feels a man­ager is un­der­achiev­ing and last sea­son he sacked Jose Mour­inho eight months af­ter his team won the Premier League. But, al­though Chelsea have en­dured some dif­fi­cult mo­ments in the early stages of Conte’s reign, in­clud­ing con­sec­u­tive lack­lus­ter de­feats against Liver­pool and Ar­se­nal, it would be a bizarre move to axe the Ital­ian af­ter only nine games.

Chelsea have made it clear they have no in­ten­tion of wield­ing the axe and Conte was re­laxed when quizzed ahead of Satur­day’s Premier League clash with cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter. “I take this with a smile. I’m try­ing to find who bet the money!” Conte told re­porters at Chelsea’s train­ing ground. “I have good com­mu­ni­ca­tion and a good re­la­tion­ship with the club. “It’s very dif­fi­cult to talk about this sit­u­a­tion. I’m fo­cused about my work. I’m fo­cused to im­prove the team. “

Af­ter spend­ing the ma­jor­ity of his man­age­rial ca­reer with Ital­ian clubs, whose own­ers are fa­mous for hir­ing and fir­ing with re­mark­able reg­u­lar­ity, Conte isn’t fazed by his first taste of Eng­land’s ver­sion of the sack race. “The pres­sure is the same. It’s nor­mal to be un­der pres­sure, also for the play­ers,” he said. “When you are in a club you want to win and do good work. The pres­sure is part of our job. It’s the same in other coun­tries. “We are work­ing very hard to change the sit­u­a­tion of the past, the whole of the last sea­son. “We are try­ing to bring some­thing im­por­tant for the present and the fu­ture.”

Big chal­lenges

While he re­mains con­fi­dent about his fu­ture with Chelsea, af­ter fail­ing his first two big tests against Liver­pool and Ar­se­nal, Conte can ill-af­ford to fin­ish the next two matches with­out pos­i­tive re­sults. Home games against Le­ices­ter and Manch­ester United will pro­vide fur­ther ev­i­dence of how far Chelsea have come un­der Conte, who said: “These are two big chal­lenges. “Le­ices­ter won the ti­tle last sea­son and are play­ing a good Cham­pi­ons League. “Then with Manch­ester United they are an­other great team, but in this mo­ment we must think about our­selves and not the other team.”

Conte’s ma­jor prob­lem so far has been a shaky de­fense that had leaked goals at an alarm­ing rate. The for­mer Ju­ven­tus coach re­sponded by switch­ing to a for­ma­tion with three cen­tral de­fend­ers and the re­sult was a 2-0 win at Hull in their last game be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break. Conte will stick with that for­ma­tion against Le­ices­ter, but he has to de­cide whether to keep faith with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Ce­sar Azpilicueta or re­call cap­tain John Terry af­ter he re­cov­ered from an an­kle in­jury “Yes, John is avail­able, he came back for train­ing in the mid­dle of the week and did all the ses­sions,” Conte said.

“It was nec­es­sary to find a so­lu­tion be­cause it is not right for a great team like Chelsea to con­cede so many goals in those games. “Now I have four cen­tral de­fend­ers and one must go on the bench.” Conte also needs to get the best out of Eden Haz­ard, the mecu­rial Bel­gium mid­fielder who this week ex­pressed a de­sire to be used by Chelsea in the num­ber 10 role he en­joys with his coun­try. Show­ing no signs of bow­ing to Haz­ard’s wishes, Conte said: “Now we are find­ing the best so­lu­tion for the play­ers and their tal­ent. “In the last game against Hull we played a good game. Haz­ard and Costa played very well and did what I want. Now we must con­tinue this way.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.