Monday 23 April 2018

'Hammer' comes down hard on Chelsea players

Antonio Conte barks out the orders during Saturday’s match. Photo: Matej Divizna/Getty Images
Antonio Conte barks out the orders during Saturday’s match. Photo: Matej Divizna/Getty Images

John Percy

There were so many flying objects thrown in Antonio Conte's dressing-room at Juventus that it became known as Cape Canaveral.

He has been described by Andrea Pirlo as "a beast with two wives" - his own and football - while his many nicknames have included The Godfather and Martello (The Hammer).

At Euro 2016 his behaviour on the touchline was frequently more absorbing than his Italy team. Chelsea's new manager is driven by an obsession to win, taking no prisoners along the way.

And he has started as he means to continue by firing a warning shot at his Chelsea players after suffering a disappointing 2-0 defeat by Rapid Vienna on his debut as manager in a pre-season friendly.

The Italian took to the dug-out for the first time as a strong line-up including Diego Costa, Willian, Nemanja Matic and captain John Terry surrendered to their hosts in Austria.

Joelinton gave Rapid an eighth-minute lead and Tomi Correa scored a second with nine minutes remaining after Costa and youngster Ola Aina had conspired to spurn several guilt-edged chances.

Speaking afterwards, Conte said: "I always give education and respect but I demand the same, for all the people that work with me. I give them this and I demand this.

"This was taught to me by my family, to give education and respect to all people.

"If I don't have this, you are asking for trouble, for a problem.

"I love to be with my players, to speak with them, to help them to understand my philosophy, my methods and my thoughts. I love this. Hopefully when the players understand this we have a fantastic relationship."


Conte was more positive about the prospects of Eden Hazard, however, after the Belgium international's struggles under Jose Mourinho and Guss Hiddink at Stamford Bridge last season.

Hazard was crowned PFA Player of the Year in 2015 but a dip in form the following season has seen his stock, and interest in his signature, dwindle considerably as Chelsea finished 10th in the Premier League.

"Last season was very bad for the players," Conte added. "It is incredible that Chelsea finished 10th.

"When you have great players in a team with great character, and Hazard is one of them, the expectation can be very high. It is important for us to get Hazard back to his best condition, technically, physically and mentally.

"I spoke with him and I am very happy to train a fantastic player like him.

"Chelsea have players with great talent, who can become top, top, top players.

"At the moment the world doesn't think they're at the same level as (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo or Neymar. But there are players that can reach this level, I'm sure.

"The heart is important, patience and the will to improve is very important and in this case it's important for the manager to take the best players and try to improve them."

The 10th appointment of Roman Abramovich's reign could not be more timely after last season's debacle and Conte intends to drag the club by their shirt collar to erase the memories of last season.

The Italian, who will fulfil a burning ambition to manage in the Premier League when the new season kicks off, has already proven a breath of fresh air at Stamford Bridge, after officially starting work last Wednesday.


Double training sessions are already the norm and this relentless approach will undoubtedly shake away the lethargy from last season. It is easy to see why Italian journalists compare him to a hurricane.

"The habit of Chelsea is to win the title or to stay until the end of the season fighting to win the title, to play in the Champions League," he stressed.

"I suffer a lot this season that we don't play the Champions League. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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