London (AFP) – Antonio Conte insists he isn’t looking for sympathy despite admitting Chelsea are facing problems at the start of their Premier League title defence.
Conte has been frustrated by Chelsea’s failure to land his top transfer targets while the champions’ title rivals embarked on multi-million pound spending sprees.
The Chelsea manager’s public complaints about the size of his squad have grown louder since his club’s decision to sanction the sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United.
Asked about Conte’s grumbling, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger aimed a jibe at the Italian this week, pointing to Chelsea sending numerous players out on loan in recent weeks.
With Conte also having fallen out with star striker Diego Costa during the close-season, former England captain Alan Shearer has said there is “something brewing which isn’t nice” at Stamford Bridge.
Now Conte has conceded it hasn’t been plain sailing for Chelsea as they prepare for their Premier League opener at home to Burnley on Saturday.
“We are facing different problems. But we must be ready to try to do our best tomorrow,” he told reporters on Friday.
But despite Chelsea’s troubles, the former Juventus coach claimed he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about his club’s predicament.
“I’m not looking for sympathy of any coaches for this situation. This is my message,” Conte said.
“The situation is clear. If the club decide to send on loan players for their development it’s because these players are not ready to play for Chelsea.
“It’s simple. I think I’m the coach of this team. My aim is to try to improve my players, to try to improve my team.
“I repeat: my only task is to focus on the pitch, what happens on the pitch, during the training session to work with my players. This must be my focus during this period.
“The club knows very well what is my opinion. And then I repeat: the club is trying to do their best on the transfer market.”
– Disgruntled –
One of the main issues is Costa remaining in exile after Conte, who had grown tired of the Spain international’s attempts to engineer a transfer, told him by text message that he was no longer part of his plans.
Costa responded by leaking the text to the media, while his lawyer threatened legal action against Chelsea, who have so far failed to find a buyer for their disgruntled star.
“No news,” Conte said when quizzed on whether Costa’s situation had changed..
Conte was asked when Costa might return, but a club spokesman intervened, saying: “Nothing to report on that.”
Alvaro Morata was signed from Real Madrid to replace Costa and the Spain forward could make his Premier League debut against Burnley after coming off the bench to miss a penalty in last weekend’s Community Shield shoot-out defeat against Arsenal.
An ankle knock sustained by Pedro means Morata is likely to start alongside Michy Batshuayi.
Morata reportedly complained to Spanish media that “they’re already killing me” over scrutiny of his two pre-season games and his 15-minute appearance at Wembley.
Conte believes Morata needs time to bed in and he said: “He’s starting to understand what I want from him during the game.
“But he needs time to understand, to adapt to our style of football, above all for a striker.
“This role is more difficult to adapt to than the other roles.”
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