Saturday 24 February 2018

Antonio Conte takes swipe at Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger over their festive fixture complaints

Antonio Conte is aware Chelsea’s position and their winning run has made them a target for opposition managers. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Antonio Conte is aware Chelsea’s position and their winning run has made them a target for opposition managers. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Matt Law

Antonio Conte has taken a swipe at the complaints of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger over Chelsea's Christmas and new-year fixture list by insisting the pair are angry only because his team are top of the Premier League.

Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, has referred to his former club as "the privileged ones", while Wenger has claimed the fixture list is the most "uneven" he has seen in 20 years.

Chelsea play their third game in 10 days over Christmas and new year against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane tonight, as they attempt to equal Arsenal's record of 14 successive league victories.

United completed a schedule of three games in eight days with a win at West Ham United on Monday night, while Arsenal's trip to Bournemouth last night was their second match in three days.

But Conte, the Chelsea head coach, dismissed the protests of Mourinho and Arsenal manager Wenger by saying: "I think they are angry for our position not for the fixtures. It's normal, this also happens in Italy. It's always because you are top. I didn't do the fixtures.

Advantages

"The advantage is one more day of rest over Tottenham. That's the advantage if we want to speak about advantages. But for me the advantages are other things.

"During a season different situations can happen when you can have an advantage, but not this. Before the Christmas period, we played three games in six days against West Brom, Sunderland and Crystal Palace. In these circumstances we showed good physical condition. I prefer it when there are many games in a few days because we worked hard for this."

Conte is aware that Chelsea's position and their winning run has made them a target for opposition managers, players and fans.

Tottenham supporters are desperate for their side to avenge the draw at Stamford Bridge that confirmed Leicester City as Premier League champions last season by preventing their rivals equalling Arsenal's 14-game record.

But Conte, who won eight Serie A titles with Juventus as a player and a manager, said: "You don't win and you don't lose a championship in one game. You win a championship over a season."

Conte's obsession with winning, which has driven Chelsea's sequence of success, is even evident in the name he chose for his daughter: Vittoria, which means victory.

"This name is nice," said Conte. "It's an important name, above all in England. My wife is Elisabetta, so I have two queens - Elisabetta and Vittoria. Very English because I knew one day I would arrive here in England to work. I like the name, then I like the word. Vittoria and victory, both."

During his final season in charge at Juventus, Conte guided the Italian club to 12 straight victories but the 47-year-old suggested that he rates his current run with Chelsea as better.

"We won 12 in a row in the league and that season we finished with 102 points, a record in Italy, and it was a fantastic championship," said Conte. "I think that in that moment, in the Italian league, there was only Roma to try to fight for the title.

"Here, there is a different situation, because there are six teams that are very strong and six teams that in the last season were placed above us and they spent a lot of money - most of them more than us. For this reason, it's more difficult here now to keep this position.

"To win 13 games in a row is a great achievement, above all now in this league, with these players and these coaches. It's not easy to keep the concentration and be focused on every game because, in this league, you can drop points in every game. But the most important thing is to take three points. Then if we can beat this record, then we will be pleased."

Conte got a close-up view of Mauricio Pochettino's work at Tottenham when he was invited to visit the club's Enfield training ground while he was Italy manager in February 2015.

"We spoke about our ideas of football and there are similarities," said Conte. "We both like to play from the back with possession and to finish quickly when we get opportunities. We both like to prepare very well and have different solutions."

The pair respect one another and Conte believes Pochettino made the perfect summer signing by adding midfielder Victor Wanyama to his squad.

"Pochettino is showing he can be one of the best coaches in the world," said Conte. "He's doing a fantastic job at Tottenham and they are a team that can fight to win the title in the present and in the future. He's doing fantastic work. They are a really strong team.

"This group is a young team and many players are growing and every year that they spend with this club, and to continue to work with the same manager - they are improving a lot.

"Also, this season, there is a very important player, Wanyama. He has quality and quantity. In his football, it's quality and stamina, work rate and great commitment. I like this about this player." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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