LONDON • Roman Abramovich provided a strong show of support for Antonio Conte on Monday by having lunch with the Chelsea manager at the club's training ground.
It is understood that the Chelsea owner spent several hours at the club's Cobham headquarters, even watching an entire training session. He is attempting to understand the problems that resulted in Conte's side losing their past two Premier League matches, at home to Liverpool and away to Arsenal, conceding five goals in the process.
Abramovich resisted the temptation to hold a crisis meeting, as he has after poor results in the past, with the Russian instead holding informal talks with Conte.
Abramovich is understood to be sympathetic to the difficulties that Conte has encountered since moving to Stamford Bridge in the close season. The Italian was unable to recruit most of the transfer targets he produced in April as a result of the asking prices that Chelsea were quoted, with N'Golo Kante the only player to join from his original list.
Many of the club's players have also struggled to get to grips with Conte's methods.
Abramovich is said to be willing to give Conte time despite having made 11 managerial changes in 13 years.
There is also a strong feeling at the club that the players should be held accountable for their performances, which will be scrutinised closely over the next few months with a view to making wholesale changes in January.
Defenders Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have been singled out for criticism after the defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal, but Conte believes that responsibility for Chelsea's poor defending should be shared by the team.
Willian and Eden Hazard were guilty of failing to track back against Arsenal, while Kante's positional sense has also been exposed on several occasions.
THE TIMES, LONDON