Antonio Conte admitted he has made mistakes this season but should Chelsea fail to catch the top four, the responsibility for an error-strewn campaign would also involve his players and the club’s hierarchy.
The ailing champions go into their game at Southampton on Saturday 10 points behind Liverpool and Tottenham, and with only three league wins secured from their 11 top-flight fixtures since the turn of the year. They have won only once since late October – against Manchester United on Bonfire night – when confronting a side then in the top half of the table, with form having dipped alarmingly.
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That has prompted tensions within the set-up and fuelled the belief Conte will depart Stamford Bridge in the summer. “It’s difficult now to explain the reasons why we’re struggling in this way this season,” Conte said. “There are many reasons. But now’s not the place or moment to speak about this. The only thing we can do is try to finish in the best possible way. For sure, we made a lot of mistakes this season. When I talk about a lot of mistakes, I involve me, my staff, the players and the club. For sure, we must reflect at the end of the season.
“If we don’t qualify for the Champions League, it means we have to divide the fault, also with the players. We must be ready to share the responsibility. I’m the first to take my responsibility. Then there is the club. Then there is the players. In football, but in every job, it’s right to be in this way. We must be frustrated. Me, my staff, the players and the club, for this season. You start the season with great expectations. Instead we have struggled a lot, for many reasons.”
Asked to elaborate on what mistakes he had made, Conte added: “When you have this type of season you have to share this responsibility, not only the boss. I’m the coach of this team. I’m the first person to take my responsibility. But, for sure, I’m not alone. Now is not the right moment to discuss this. For us, the most important thing is to be focused on the present. Then there is the club who, for sure, are working for the future.
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“Everyone has to find in himself the right desire, the right will to fight. There are six games to go and we have a semi-final in the FA Cup. A possibility then to play in the final for the second year in a row. I know my players. I trust them. I like to think that everyone is giving everything of themselves.”