Conte not 'solely to blame'

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte giving a press conference at Chelsea's Cobham training facility in Stoke D'Abernon, on Feb 9, 2018, ahead of their EPL match against West Bromwich Albion.
Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte giving a press conference at Chelsea's Cobham training facility in Stoke D'Abernon, on Feb 9, 2018, ahead of their EPL match against West Bromwich Albion.PHOTO: AFP

Amid dismissal calls, Italian says club should keep him and wants shared responsibility

LONDON • Antonio Conte suggested Chelsea would be "stupid" to sack him and should stick with him as manager even if he fails to deliver silverware this season.

He lifted the Premier League trophy in his first year in England but a 4-1 thrashing at Watford last Monday followed an embarrassing 0-3 loss to Bournemouth in Chelsea's last home game to leave the Premier League champions in serious risk of failing to qualify for next season's Champions League.

"I think that you continue to work with a manager or coach not because of what he achieves in one season, but because you trust in him," said Conte. "Then you build something with him.

"But it doesn't mean you have to win something, because that's not simple. Especially in England, it's not simple...

"There are two ways - there is a stupid way and an intelligent way. If the club decides to send me away, I don't know when, it'll be because they're not happy with my work."

If the rumour mill is to be believed, Conte could be sacked as early as this week if he fails to secure a response against bottom dwellers West Bromwich Albion in the league today.

The Italian, however, believes blame should be shared for their dramatic slump.

"When you have this period with such poor results, you have to divide the responsibility between me, the players and the club," he said with the Blues lying fifth in the table with 50 points from 26 games.

The next few weeks will be decisive for Chelsea's season.

West Brom's visit is followed by an FA Cup fifth-round tie against Hull before a trio of demanding fixtures. Barcelona travel to Stamford Bridge in the last 16 of the Champions League before Chelsea visit Manchester United and Manchester City in back-to-back Premier League games.

Chelsea captain Gary Cahill said: "(This stretch) will probably define our season. Coming out of the end of February, it's important that we're in a good position in these competitions but it's all still there for us to play for."

In a bid to turn the tide, Conte changed his usual practice and gave his squad three days off this week to recharge their batteries.

He also revealed that new boy Olivier Giroud is in contention to start against the league's bottom dwellers but fellow striker Alvaro Morata remains sidelined with injury.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V WEST BROM

Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, tomorrow, 4am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'Conte not 'solely to blame''. Print Edition | Subscribe