LONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 1 – Antonio Conte said his Chelsea players did their best at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night as they went down to a shock 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth.
Three second-half goals from Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas and Chelsea academy graduate Nathan Ake condemned the Blues to another surprising defeat in an increasingly inconsistent season.
After the game Conte refused to offer an excuses for what was a lacklustre display.
“Tough night, but if you remember very well, I predicted this tough night yesterday during the press conference,” he said. “If you remember, I said it would be very, very tough for a lot of reasons. It happened, but now we have to move on and see the next game.
“Now it would be very simple to find a lot of excuses, a lot of alibis. This is not the right way, also because I don’t want to. For sure we made a lot of mistakes together. When we win, we win together. When we lose, we lose together.
“I think the players tried to do their best, honestly. The commitment of the players was great. But, despite this, we lost. It was a bad defeat. But football is not simple. You have to prepare, to study, and then to try and prepare for every situation, every game, every season.
“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.
“We are doing everything, we are doing 120 percent. I’m exploiting this squad at the maximum level. If someone doesn’t agree about this, I’m here. I have to accept every situation. I’m very relaxed about [the pressure]. I know that I’m doing a great job, a great work, me and the staff and the players.”
Asked if he thought Chelsea were overachieving this season, Conte replied: “Yes, I think we are doing more [than expected].”
The defeat saw the Blues slip to fourth place in the table, 18 points behind leaders Manchester City and just two ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham.
“Yes, we must be worried [about the top four],” Conte added. “It won’t be easy. But this is normal. It won’t be easy this season, and we have to fight. I think the players are starting to understand that this season, we have to struggle for a position in the Champions League.
“But I think the players, until now, are great. They are [at the] very, very top for their commitment and their behaviours. If they hadn’t done that, our place in the table would be worse.
“We have to understand that, if we want to speak about football and if we think to understand football we know very well this 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!
“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 [by finishing in the top four], it will be a great success for us. Otherwise we have a normal season.”