Antonio Conte says Chelsea played with fear at Watford and lack character
• Head coach is ‘not worried’ about his job at Stamford Bridge • Italian says performance at Vicarage Road was ‘very poor’
Antonio Conte admitted his team had been undermined by fear and cast doubt over whether some of Chelsea’s players have the strength of character to thrive at a big club after the Premier League champions were thrashed at Watford.
A second successive defeat by three goals, the first time Chelsea have endured that ignominy in 22 years, has heaped further pressure on Conte, who is left contemplating publicly whether he will be able turn the team’s fortunes around. The head coach had called for a show of support from the board before this fixture in an attempt to quash suggestions he would leave the club before the end of the season but, after his team played for an hour with 10 men, he saw them succumb to a third defeat in four games. “We played with fear,” he said. “To play football in a great club, it means you must have a personality. It’s simple to play when there is the confidence. Especially in this type of moment, you can see who is [ready to play] for a great club, to play with personality and also to risk something.
“In this moment you have to show you have personality. We have to work, to try to work ... but sometimes the work is not enough to change the situation. I try to continue. I try to continue to work, to try to improve different aspects of my players. But our performance was very poor. For sure, I have to take the responsibility. Maybe I made the wrong decision for the starting XI.
“I saw a great will, a great desire, in the second half but a lot of confusion too. When we drew level we had to manage the situation, to understand the moment. A great team must do this. Instead, in six minutes, we conceded three more goals. It’s right, everyone must take responsibility: me, the players. But, from the start, I didn’t see confidence. We started with fear and this is the worst situation I can see out on the pitch as a coach.”
While the prospect of losing out on the top four has tended to prompt Roman Abramovich to seek a change in the dugout over his ownership of Chelsea, Conte insisted he has no fear over his own position and intends to oversee preparations as normal for next Monday’s visit of West Bromwich Albion.
“I’m not worried about my job,” he added. “I work every day and I give 120%. OK? If this is enough, it’s OK. Otherwise the club can take a different decision. But I’m not worried.
“ My conscience is clear. I go to sleep without a problem that maybe, maybe, I could do this or that. I try to do everything. If it’s not good, the club can make a different decision. Life goes on. For sure, this is a difficult moment. If we want to find excuses, alibis, we can find everything. Tiredness, injuries... but this is not my way to face the situation, to solve the problem.
“The problems you have to solve with work. You don’t win with excuses. In my life, I like to be a winner, and I’m a winner. Now it’s very difficult to predict turning this situation into a positive, but I can promise to work to change it. But, I repeat, the level of our performance was very poor.”