We’ve had to wait a while, but it was well worth it as Antonio Conte was unveiled as the new Chelsea manager in a captivating press conference in front of a packed media on Thursday afternoon.
The Italian has plenty to ponder with a month until the season starts, as he seeks to turn things around at Stamford Bridge following their 10th place finish last term.
First things first, his English was fairly good given the intense nature of unveilings where every word and action are analysed. The former Juve manager conducted himself impeccably and was able to answer questions with confidence with a range of topics covered from transfer targets, Jose Mourinho, formations and style of play.
But what did we learn?
Fight. Arguably the most repeated word throughout underlined what he expects from everyone at the club. We saw at the Euros and during his time in Italy his desire and passion on the sidelines, he’ll no doubt be looking to transfer that to the rest of the Chelsea squad.
One of the Euros more memorable moments involve an animated Conte on the sidelines and all during his spell in Turin he was known to be somewhat hot headed, but is there any similarity to Mourinho? He’ll bring that nastiness back to Chelsea which so many have associated with the club since the Abramovich takeover in 2003 and speaking from a Chelsea’s fan point of view, we don’t mind that in the slightest!
His early words will have won him fans from large sections of the Chelsea supporters who saw their players turn their backs on Mourinho and putting in lacklustre performances under Guus Hiddink at times, so it will be up to Conte to find out which players fit the criteria to be part of his revolution.
It’s not all about 3-5-2
Plenty was made as to whether Conte would use his favoured 3-5-2 formation at Stamford Bridge. We saw it at work as recently as at the Euros with Italy, although his analogy when asked about formations indicated he’s more open minded to experiment to find the right formula to get the best out of his players.
“When I was in Italy I liked to say the coach is like a tailor, who must make the best dress for the team.”
He went on to say:
“Three at the back, four at the back, it’s not important. What important is the right spirit of the team and good organisation.”
Which was once again points out his belief in team unity and togetherness as being key to the club’s success.
Terry still key man
One of the biggest topics of last term was the club’s ludicrous early decision to not offer club captain John Terry a new contract, only for both the player and club as well as Conte having a huge role in agreeing that he stayed.
It’s clear that Conte still regards him as a key man whether he plays or not:
“John Terry signed a contract as a player, not a different role… He is the captain of this team. He is a great player, with a great personality, charisma. I like to speak to him, because I know he knows the club, the right spirit to play in this club. For me he is a very important player.”
In a way it seems as though Conte needs Terry rather than the reverse which could be a crucial partnership in his first season at the club, the Italian is fully aware of the knowledge and passion the club captain has and no doubt he’ll utilise his knowhow in the coming weeks.
Confident Conte & title on his mind
Whatever formation Conte goes with, the Italian is fully aware that the demands at the club are high. He wasn’t in the mood to downplay that either, speaking of winning the title back “very soon”. He understands he comes into the most intense and difficult league in the world where anyone from seven teams could potentially win the title come May, although he believes even after a poor 15/16 campaign Chelsea are well in the race.
It’s clear Conte is aiming for titles:
“To win the title, to fight at the end to compete with the other teams to win the title, to reach your targets.”
“There is only one team that will win the title but we must stay there, to fight for the title.”
There’s that word again.
He oozes confidence in his style, approach, record and career and I firmly believe he feels if he can hit the ground running, Chelsea can potentially win the league in his first year. Of course this is easier said than done but with all the other challengers having European football to contend with, it could work in the Italians favour.