Antonio Conte has warned the Chelsea hierarchy there is “a stupid way and an intelligent way” to react to a trophyless campaign and urged them to trust in his vision for the club rather than pursue a managerial change this summer.
The champions’ title defence has petered out and they will go into Monday’s game against bottom-placed West Bromwich Albion far behind the leaders, Manchester City. Their run of two wins in 10 matches, with three-goal defeats in their past two league games, has threatened to wreck a campaign in which they reached the Carabao Cup semi-finals and retain interest in both the FA Cup and Champions League, as well as a top-four finish.
Yet, while Chelsea insist talks have not taken place with any potential successors – Luis Enrique is favourite to take up the reins at Stamford Bridge – and are not planning upheaval mid-season, the suspicion remains Conte will depart in the summer with 12 months on his contract to run.
The manager remains committed and intent on claiming silverware this season but, should his efforts go unrewarded, he has suggested the club should look at the wider picture. “You continue to work with a manager or coach not because of what he achieves in one season but because you trust in him,” he said. “Then you build something with him.
“But it doesn’t mean you have to win something, because that’s not simple. Not easy. Especially in England. The way I look at it, you can win [a trophy] but, at the same time, the club might not be happy to stay with you. In that case, [they might consider] it’s right to send the coach away. At the same time, you can trust in a coach and his work and continue with him even if you don’t win, and try and build something important.
“There are two ways. There is a stupid way and an intelligent way. This is my opinion. At the same time, I have great respect for everyone’s opinion. If the club decides to send me away, I don’t know when, it’ll be because they’re not happy with my work. As you know very well, my contract expires in 2019. From my point of view, there is the will to stay and continue to work for this club.”