Antonio Conte had no doubt the pressure on his position would intensify after his Chelsea side’s stunning 3-0 defeat by Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
The Blues head coach insists his Chelsea team, the reigning Premier League champions, are over-achieving this season –- but claims he is “relaxed” if members of the club’s hierarchy view things differently.
Defeat left Chelsea in fourth place in the Premier League, just two points above Tottenham Hotspur and Conte accepted there were concerns over whether the Blues would qualify for next season’s Champions League.
“The pressure, it’s normal. It’s normal for a coach, for a manager,” Conte said. “It’s normal if you are Chelsea’s coach.
“After the first game this season, you (the media) tried to put pressure on my job. But I’m trying to do my best.”
The Italian added: “If someone doesn’t think this club deserves this table (position) or deserve this situation. I repeat: we are doing everything, we are doing 120 percent. I’m exploiting this squad at the maximum level.
“But, if someone doesn’t agree about this, I’m here. I have to accept every situation. I’m very relaxed about this. I know that I’m doing a great job, a great work, me and the staff and the players.”
There have been reports that Conte has angered Chelsea’s Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich with thinly veiled criticism of the London club’s transfer policy.
Asked whether the transfer business conducted by Chelsea’s top four rivals had made the task of claiming a top-four finish harder, Conte replied: “We have to understand that, if we want to speak about football and if we think to understand football we know very well this (a top four place) will be very difficult for us.
“If we want only to dream and not see the reality –- in this case, I can tell you now we can fight to win the title this season!”, added Conte, whose side area huge 18 points behind leaders Manchester City.
“It will be very important to look at the reality and to know that, if we are able to reach a place in the Champions League, it will be a great success for us. Otherwise we have a normal season.
“My task is to try to be more realistic and try to transfer this to the players, because the players… if they know and understand the danger… But the players are fantastic in their commitment. They understand very well what our situation is in this season.”
New signing Olivier Giroud watched the game from behind the dug-out but Conte said: “I don’t think now is the right moment to speak about Giroud after a bad defeat.”
“Now the most important thing is to understand we have to fight. This season will be very tough. We must be ready to struggle this season for everything.”
– ‘Best feeling’ –
Goals from Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas and Nathan Ake in 16 second-half minutes secured Bournemouth’s impressive victory.
The win moved Bournemouth up to tenth place, although they remain just five points clear of the bottom three.
Eddie Howe said the victory at Stamford Bridge was the best moment in his nine years, spread over two spells, as Bournemouth manager.
Howe, who has steered the club through the leagues from third-division League One, said: “This is the best (feeling) because of the performance.
“When we won here in our first season in the Premier League it was a historic performance, but it was backs against the wall. There was no luck connected today. It was a very strong performance. We’re improving, we’re getting stronger, we were very brave in our approach.”
“Full credit to the players: Chelsea are an outstanding team, but we defended very well, attacked with purpose, and the shape and balance were very good.
“We were unbeaten in five coming here and wanted to keep that going, picking up points,” Howe added.
“To win by the margin we have is something we didn’t expect but are very proud of.”