Having taken charge of his first training session at Cobham yesterday, Antonio Conte was officially unveiled to the world’s media this afternoon.
Our new first team head coach conducted his introductory press conference in a packed Harris Suite, situated in the West Stand at Stamford Bridge. Conte looked ahead and spoke about ensuring the Blues return to challenging for the title and playing regular Champions League football.
Before any questions were asked by the assembled journalists, he explained what taking on the role means to him on a personal level.
‘I’m excited for this moment and to start a new season with Chelsea. It’s a new chapter in my life, for my career, for me and for my family,’ Conte said. ‘I’m very happy to start working in a fantastic country and fantastic league. I think that this league is the most difficult in the world because there are six or seven teams that can win the title. Chelsea is a great team and I’m very proud to be the new coach.’
Prior to the press conference, Conte had overseen three training sessions, but he has already seen more than enough from his new group of players to suggest they possess the quality to compete at the top of the Premier League table.
‘It’s just the second day at Cobham for me, it's fantastic to work there and in the last two days I saw the players with the right attitude, right behaviour and with a great will to fight for the shirt and to go back very soon to compete to win the title,’ he added. ‘After these two days I’m very glad to see these things and I think it’s very important.’
Conte was then asked about John Terry’s importance to the side, and whether or not the defender would continue as captain. He provided an emphatic response.
‘He’s captain of this team, a great player with great personality and charisma. I like to speak with him because he knows the right spirit which is needed to play at this club. For me, he’s an important player.
‘All the players know I’ll see the pitch during the training session to choose my starting 11. When a player deserves to play, he plays. John Terry is captain of Chelsea when he plays and when he doesn’t play. He’s always captain.
‘He is an important player for me, the club and the fans. He signed [a new contract] in May but the decision was taken together – by me and the club, and I’m very pleased he signed a new deal with Chelsea. I spoke with him at different times and the most important thing was that when he signed he was very happy.’
With the Blues having finished in 10th position last season, there is of course a huge determination to return to the European stage, and in particular the Champions League.
Conte insists his pressure comes from within, and explained why he is relishing the challenge of improving the team’s fortunes.
‘The pressure for me is not important because I was born with pressure,’ he said. ‘It’s normal because when you are a player or manager of a great club like Chelsea you must play to win the title or to compete with other teams to win. For this reason the situation excites me.
‘We know this year won’t be easy for us. If we think about the 10th position, it was a bad season for us. We all know that, but we must think about the present and work hard every day, week and month to achieve something important for us, the club and the fans. The supporters need to find a team who are ready to fight until the end to compete with others.
'I hope we can surprise people, that there is a small flame flickering that can grow into a blazing inferno.
‘I don’t know if it’s the most difficult challenge of my career. When I arrived at Juventus they’d finished seventh two years in a row, and then we built something fantastic because we won the title in the first year, and then the second and third.
‘My experience with the national team was fantastic but also very difficult because you have pressure from the media and the whole country who want to see what you do.
'It’s the right challenge and I’m sure with the players and the club all together we can achieve great satisfaction at the end of the season.’
Conte is renowned for his tactical acumen and ability to make changes to formations and playing styles when the need arises.
Having used a three-man defence with Italy at the Euros, it’s perhaps natural to assume he will adopt a similar approach at Stamford Bridge, but he believes the overall success of the side will be determined by more significant factors.
‘I think every manager has their own methods, philosophies and ideas,’ said Conte. ‘I want to transfer my methods to the players and it’s important to work on different aspects. We need the mentality to become a difficult team during the game.
'It’s also important to have players who give you great identity to bring your ideas and methods. To have players ready to fight, to play good football and transfer our passion and emotion to the fans is the most important thing.’
- you can read more from Antonio Conte's first press conference here.