Difficult season has cost Antonio Conte sleepless nights
Chelsea manager says responsibility is shared for a disappointing campaign
Antonio Conte: “You have to understand what is the percentage of the responsibility.” Photograph: Tony OP’Brien/Reuters
Antonio Conte has been deeply hurt by Chelsea’s disastrous title defence and admits a season fraught with difficulties has given him sleepless nights.
Hopes that Stamford Bridge will host Champions League football next season hang by the slimmest of threads after last Sunday’s 3-1 defeat by fourth-placed Tottenham, which left Chelsea eight points behind their London rivals with seven games to play.
It has given the rest of their league campaign a strange, almost agonising complexion with little but pride to play for and the spectre of Conte’s likely summer departure high on the agenda.
Conte is adamant there will be no downing of tools and says the burden of pressure he puts on himself has been difficult to bear.
“Those who know me very well know I am very angry, I am very sad for this situation,” he said. “Those who know me very well know I am trying to put all of myself to change this situation because I have great responsibility. I feel great responsibility for my work, for my family, for everything.
“When I go to my house, it’s not that I am relaxed but I know that I gave everything and am giving everything for this club, 120 per cent, every day, every day. Sometimes, it’s very difficult to sleep with these types of problem.”
Conte was asked for his response to comments this week by his former Juventus team-mate Gianluca Vialli, also a former Chelsea manager. Vialli said Conte “can’t wait to leave Chelsea”, primarily owing to frustrations regarding his lack of control over transfer policy, but Conte explained the pair had not spoken since dining together last season.
“I understand because he is now a journalist and he has to give news, to try to speak about my situation,” Conte said.
“I can be disappointed on one side but I respect him because he is a journalist and he is doing his job. He is trying to give his opinion, it is not my opinion. The people who stay very close to me know very well my intentions – to stay here, to continue my job here. This is the truth. You will see.”
That will do little to dampen speculation but there will be plenty to reflect on regardless of his next move. He explained responsibility for such a disappointing campaign – for which some succour may yet come in the FA Cup – lies in three distinct departments.
“In every season you have to share responsibility for the final result,” he said. “With the club, with the coach, with the players. It is impossible to find a fault in only one of these three parts. You have to understand what is the percentage of the responsibility.”
He did not offer insight into how those percentages might be apportioned but reiterated that, beginning tomorrow against West Ham, his players will not be expected to ease off.
“I do not want to see one person try to give up.”