Antonio Conte does not believe he would be emulating Carlo Ancelotti by winning the Premier League and FA Cup with Chelsea this season because he is managing a Blues squad in transition.
Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Tottenham at Wembley kept Chelsea on course to claim a spectacular double in Conte’s first season in English football — a feat that countryman and friend Ancelotti achieved in charge of the Blues in the 2009-10 campaign.
Conte considers Bayern Munich boss Ancelotti “the best Italian coach” but insists winning the Premier League and FA Cup would carry a different significance for a Chelsea squad that has lost established figures Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel this season, and is set to see captain John Terry depart in the summer.
“I think that now at Chelsea we are in a period of transition,” Conte said after his team’s win at Wembley. “In this season, we have lost Ivanovic, Mikel and next season we lose John Terry. We are talking about players who wrote the history of this club. They won a lot.
“Now we have to find the right substitutes for these players and then work to put these players at the same level. I think that in the period with Carlo — and he is the best Italian coach, I have great respect for him — he arrived at Chelsea when they had a really strong squad. Now we are building.
“We are building something important. We need time. It’s not easy when you lose these types of players but we need to show patience to build the foundations and then improve every season.
“I repeat, if you ask me last [summer], after our 10th place, that this season we stay on top of the table and reach the FA Cup final, but didn’t change a lot, I think it’s great. But we must continue to work and improve.”
Cesar Azpilicueta captained Chelsea at Wembley with John Terry on the bench and Gary Cahill sidelined by gastroenteritis, and midfielder Cesc Fabregas insisted after the match that the Blues’ trophy pedigree runs deeper than the obvious names in the squad.
“The good thing that has happened with this team this season is that every time we had a defeat or draw we bounce back very quickly,” he said. “We don’t leave time to feel sorry for ourselves and I think that’s a good quality. The squad is focused. There are winners in this team and we have to keep it up.
“The last time [Nathan] Ake played was two months ago, [Michy] Batshuayi the same. Willian didn’t start the last five games and scored two goals. To have these kinds of players and then when we were struggling in the second half we brought on big players [Eden Hazard and Diego Costa] worked very well.”
Conte has a formidable track record of success too, having won three consecutive Serie A titles in charge of dominant Juventus teams. But the Italian does not expect Chelsea’s progress to the finish line to be quite as serene with Tottenham only four points behind heading into the final six Premier League matches.
“The pressure is always high when you fight for the title but, in Juventus, we won the title with four or five games to go and we had the time to relax,” he added. “Here, I don’t think [it will happen] because I think to the end we have to fight to win the title, but I’m sure that it will be great if we are able to reach this target.”
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