After all the positivity of Conte’s first season in charge of Chelsea, the last three months, starting with the FA Cup final defeat at the end of last season, have seen the mood at Cobham go steadily downhill. A contract extension that never materialized — yes, Conte is now the highest paid coach in Chelsea history, but the length of the contract remained the same — coupled with plenty of transfer market frustrations and player sales has seemingly soured the relationships between Conte and the key decision-makers at the club, and we know from prior experience that those are all signs of an impending doom, regardless even of actual results on the pitch. Add in the distinct possibility of starting the season 0-2, a situation not seen at Chelsea since 1973, and the storm clouds currently gathering on the horizon could quickly envelop us all.
Perhaps in an effort to step in front of that narrative, Conte has doubled down on his commitment to the club, bringing up Spurs as en example of long-term building that he hopes to emulate with Chelsea as well.
At the end of last season, Conte talked about the need to be “very cold” in our decision-making regarding the squad this summer, and we’ve certainly seen plenty of supporting evidence of that sort of thinking this summer. Two key members of the last two title-winning teams have been excised, one willingly, one not so much, with the legendary John Terry also moving on in a symbolic gesture to truly close out the “Old Guard” era at the team.
But reinforcements have not arrived as quickly and as abundantly as expected, and combined with injuries and an opening day shock defeat, Chelsea and Conte find themselves in near-crisis mode already with barely enough senior players to fill out a starting XI. Not exactly a good way to start a long-term plan to build a new core.
But Conte remains firmly committed to the plan, a four-year plan to make Chelsea the ‘best in the world’. His contract may only be for two years at the moment, but other than providing flexibility and space for a quick annulment, it does not lessen his dedication to the cause.
Antonio Conte told Evening Standard “Yeah, maybe. Maybe. [It could take four years.] To arrive and try to fight for Champions League, to try to fight to be the best in the world, you need time.”
“I still have this season and next season to work with this club. Then if we stay very well and we have the same vision, we continue. I don’t see any problems about the future.
“Now we have two years left, but if we have the same vision we can continue to work together. I think that I stay in the right club at this point of my career.”
Conte will of course need similar commitment and backing from the club, both in the transfer market and player development, and just in general should we encounter a few Ancelotti-esque “bad moments”.
“We have started this path and we want to continue together to improve and to bring this club to have a solid foundation to stay a long time at the top and to try to fight to win the Champions League and the League. A club like Chelsea must have this ambition. But I repeat we need time. We must have patience to work.
“No-one put a gun to my head and said ‘You win or you go away’. The only thing I can promise is work, work, work and that I will try to do my best to improve the club. Sometimes you can win, but you are not building something positive for your future.”
Conte’s prior career decisions, to walk away from his jobs at Bari and Juventus work against him as well, but as he had suggested a few weeks ago, he’s learning to be patient. Many critics have pointed out that his sour moods in public are not helping the situation — though I should add that the annoyingly repetitive lines of questioning by the media in press conferences excuse his behaviour to a certain degree — but Conte is ready to flip that around as well.