Conte: Marvellous mentality

Antonio Conte says regardless of how active we are in the January transfer window, the only way for the team to improve is to work with the same mentality and desire which has served us so well since he took charge.

The Blues welcome Stoke City to Stamford Bridge this afternoon aiming to secure a victory in front of our own fans for the second time this week, following the 2-0 Boxing Day win over Brighton.

That result took us to within a point of second-placed Manchester United, who trail leaders Manchester City by 15 points. Conte believes the leaders will still face some tough obstacles during the second half of the season due to the fact teams, even at the lower end of the table, will have plenty to play for.

‘It’s right to have great respect for Manchester City because they are doing something incredible,’ said the Italian. ‘From 20 games, to win 19 and draw only one makes it very difficult for any team to try to fight until the end because if they continue in this way it’s not simple. From our last 12 games we won nine, drew two and lost one, against West Ham, and the gap is bigger.

‘When you create these type of expectations every team wants to try to stop you, that’s normal. I think the teams who are in the relegation zone, who don’t have the Champions League Carabao Cup or FA Cup, which starts in January, will try to stop them.’

Eden Hazard produced another impressive display against Brighton on Boxing Day and the Belgian has been in magnificent form over the past couple of months. Conte has been pleased with Hazard’s performances for the Blues but the Italian believes his playmaker can become even more influential.

‘I’m proud to have him in my team and my squad,’ he said. ‘I’m very happy to work with him, he’s a really good guy. He has a lot of space for improvement to become one of the best players in the world.

‘He could score more. If you see the stats you will understand he could score more. That’s an aspect where he can improve. When you are a striker, or a number 10, your speciality must be to score.

‘My task, and I think the task for every coach, is to try to improve your players because that’s the only way to try to win something, by improving your players, every year, every season. If you develop your players your team becomes stronger and you can have the possibility to fight for something important.’

With the January transfer window opening on Monday, there is an opportunity to strengthen the squad over the next month, a subject Conte spoke about.

‘I can tell you I’m very happy to work with these players and I’m very happy with the mentality we’ve created in the last one-and-a-half years. I’m very happy with the behaviour and commitment of my players, which is great for me, I’m proud. The club is then right to make the best decision if they see we can improve with some players.

'Football is not simple. The most important thing is to have a very clear idea of where you are in the present and where you can stay in the future.

‘It’s important to look at ourselves and try to improve in the right way. At my end, the way to improve is to work. At the other end there is the club and the transfer market. I can only speak about my end and the only way to improve is to continue to work with this mentality and desire in this league because I have fantastic players with me.’