More players. Now.
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In short that’s what Antonio Conte wants as the manager of the reigning Premier League champions continues to be asked about adding to his Chelsea squad with just over two weeks left in the summer transfer window.
Speaking to Sky Sports at the Premier League launch event in central London on Wednesday, Conte didn’t shy away from talking about new additions to his squad.
“The most important thing is that my club knows very well which is our priority,” Conte said. “I hope to try to work to try and improve our squad, to improve our quality and then to be ready to fight for the season.”
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Pressed on if it would be difficult for Chelsea to retain their title if more new players failed to arrive, Conte agreed it would be tough.
“Yeah, for sure,” Conte said. “I repeat. This league is not easy. You have to fight against at least five other teams. This league is different to the other countries when you find two teams to fight for the title. Here you have six teams who are very strong. You must be prepared to fight.”
Conte has brought in striker Alvaro Morata, holding midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and defender Antonio Rudiger this summer but he’s lost Nemanja Matic, John Terry, Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah permanently, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is one of several youngsters to depart on loan. Add in to that Eden Hazard‘s ankle injury which means he will miss the start of the season and that leading goalscorer from last season, Diego Costa, continues to train away from the squad as he edges closer to a Stamford Bridge exit.
With deals for Virgil Van Dijk and Serge Aurier said to be in the works, Conte is obviously focusing on strengthening his defense which will be a concern after shaky defensive displays in preseason against Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and then Arsenal in the FA Community Shield defeat last week. With Bakayoko not fit, Rudiger recovering from his Confederations Cup exploits and Morata not at his sharpest, Conte’s offseason has been problematic.
In recent press conferences the Italian manager has mentioned time and again he’d like to bring in new players and it was rather telling what he had to say about Matic’s $50 million departure to Manchester United.
“Matic knows very well what I think about him and the importance of this player because he is a really good player, a really strong player and very important for our team,” Conte said. “Sometimes you must accept that this crazy transfer market and you must accept different decisions.”
Does that sound like Conte was particularly happy with one of his starting central midfielders from last season being sold to a Premier League rival? Nope.
Something is brewing behind-the-scenes at Chelsea and Conte only improving the terms on his contract, which has two years left to run, rather than extending it earlier this summer says a lot.
The reigning champs haven’t had an ideal preseason and Conte’s slightly sour demeanor cannot mask his frustration.