London (AFP) – Antonio Conte hopes his first taste of the Premier League doesn’t end in another sleepless night as Chelsea’s new manager starts a new era at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Conte is eagerly awaiting his introduction to the English game after spells as Juventus and Italy coach, but the renowned perfectionist knows he is in for a long night of soul searching if the Blues come unstuck against London rivals West Ham United.
Revealing he rarely sleeps more than a few hours before a match as he finds himself mulling over tactical decisions, Conte says the frustration of defeat lingers so long that he will hardly sleep following a loss.
“Usually I don’t sleep a lot before the games, two, three, four hours, then when I wake up I start to think about the game. By the morning I have the tactical ideas,” Conte said.
“After the game when I win I sleep easily, when I don’t win it’s very difficult for me to sleep.
“At night I think why we lost, sometimes I watched the game again, because I want to find a reply.
“Where is the situation that is difficult, who are the players who were difficult, was our tactical plan good or not good.”
Although Conte enjoyed a trophy-laden reign with Juventus, he rarely feels fully satisfied and it was no different with Italy, whose Euro 2016 defeats against the Republic of Ireland and Germany provoked especially long nights of tossing and turning under the sheets.
– Sacrifice –
“Lately I was lucky because I often win, with the national team and Juventus. But when it happened that I lost a game I need to think quickly why,” he said.
“In the Euros when we lost to Ireland, in the middle of the night I wanted to watch the match again to understand the reason.
“I have a great wife, a great daughter, they understand me. They know my habit is to work a lot.
“When you win a title you reach a great connection with your soul. You understand your sacrifice, the many nights that you don’t sleep.”
It is that passion that made Conte such an appealing choice for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich as he looked to repair the fractured dressing room that doomed his club to a dismal 10th-place finish last season.
Conte has arrived at Stamford Bridge to find a squad of fragile egos looking for inspiration and leadership following the breakdown of their relationship with former boss Jose Mourinho.
With that in mind, the Italian has been working as much on restoring his players’ confidence as implementing his playing philosophy.
“Before the Italy job many people who know me didn’t trust I could transfer the right spirit to the national team,” said Conte, who should give debuts to new signings N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi against the Hammers.
“I showed it can happen. A family spirit in the team is important. Every player must be ready to help his teammate.
“It’s not easy after only 30 days but I found the players with the right attitude. I hope we can build on this.”
Meanwhile, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic hopes the game-changing ability of Andre Ayew, his club’s £20 million ($25.8m) record signing, will add more dynamism to his side’s attack.
After an impressive campaign with Swansea, Ghana international Ayew moved to east London in the close-season and Bilic has already been impressed by his new recruit.
“He adds more quality. He came to England and did a really good job,” Bilic said.
“He scored 12 goals and played in different positions. He can be a game changer.”
Ayew and former Marseille team-mate Dimitri Payet will be key to West Ham’s bid to improve on last season’s seventh-place finish.
“We had a really good season so we didn’t have the need to start from the bottom, but there are no yesterdays in football,” Bilic said.
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