Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte arrives for a press conference at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on September 26, 2017 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group C football match Club Atletico de Madrid against Chelsea FC. / AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO
Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte says he would rather be honest than pretend he believes his team are realistic contenders for the Premier League title.
Conte claimed after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham United that his side’s defence of their title was effectively over.
He was happy with the way his players responded in Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Huddersfield Town, but cautioned they are still 11 points behind leaders Manchester City, who play their game in hand at Swansea City on Wednesday.
“I think that when you tell the truth, it’s the truth,” Conte told reporters at the John Smith’s Stadium.
“We have 11 points less than Manchester City. Man City won 15 and drew one. In 17 games, we lost four.
“When you have a competitor like Manchester City who are winning every game, it’s very difficult to think you can fight for the title.”
Conte rubbished suggestions his stance was unduly negative after a win secured by goals from Tiemoue Bakayoko, Willian and Pedro.
“People say talk negative or positive. It’s bullshit. It’s about being realistic,” said the Italian.
“I want to always tell the truth. I would rather tell the truth than a good lie.
“I can be too honest, but I like to speak very honestly with my players and fans. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to try to catch them.
“We have a big leap to make and we need to win every game in this league. This league is very difficult. You have to give 120 per cent of yourself in every game or risk dropping points.
“There are six teams to fight for the title and the Champions League. We have to look at ourselves to try to improve. Tonight, I enjoyed my players’ performance.”
– Bakayoko’s best yet –
Bakayoko atoned for a poor performance at West Ham by scoring the opening goal with a dinked finish before Willian added a second with a header and Pedro blasted in a third.
France midfielder Bakayoko has struggled for form since his £40 million ($53.3 million, 45.4 million euros) move from Monaco in July, but Conte said this was his best performance in a Chelsea shirt.
“Bakayoko played a really good game tonight and I’m really happy for him,” Conte said.
“He’s 22 years old and I think he’s adapting to English football. Tonight, I saw the best performance from Baka and I started to see what I want. To find the right pass, to change side, to be solid, to be focused for the whole game.
“I’m very pleased for him. This performance improved his confidence. I’m not worried about Baka.
“He’s starting to realise he is in a big club. He showed me he has the right desire to improve himself and try to be better.”
Huddersfield head coach David Wagner blamed sloppy defending for the first two goals that his team conceded.
However, he was pleased that his players continued to compete after going 3-0 down early in the second half, earning reward through Laurent Depoitre’s headed consolation goal in stoppage time.
“Chelsea were good, there’s no doubt about that,” Wagner said.
“The bigger problem is that we haven’t over-performed. We didn’t underperform. We were at an average level.
“In the first half, our defence shape was good, we wanted to frustrate them. Unfortunately we conceded a sloppy goal where our concentration wasn’t good enough. Our concentration wasn’t good enough for the second goal too.
“We had to be at our best for every single second and in these two instances this wasn’t the case.
“But the players showed good character. They deserved the goal they scored at the end.”