Antonio Conte expects the 2017-18 season to be the most difficult of his managerial career as he continues to insist his Chelsea squad is too small for their Premier League defence.
Conte’s men face Arsenal in the Community Shield on Sunday before beginning their quest for a second successive title at home to Burnley next weekend.
Chelsea broke their transfer record to sign Alvaro Morata for a reported £70million, the Spain striker coming in as a likely replacement for Diego Costa, whose departure appears inevitable after the breakdown of his relationship with Conte.
Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger and Willy Caballero have also arrived but Nemanja Matic, Nathan Ake, Nathaniel Chalobah and Asmir Begovic are among those to have left the club.
And, with the extra burden of a Champions League campaign on their hands, Conte is adamant he does not have enough resource in his squad.
“For sure, for me, it will be the most difficult season of my career. I’m sure about this. It will be the most difficult of my career as a coach,” the Italian said.
“For many reasons. It’s very difficult. I haven’t a lot of time to explain a lot of these reasons. But I’m sure about this… that next season will be very tough – the most difficult of my career. I have this perception and I hope I’ve made a mistake.”
On his squad he said: “This is the reality, no?. We have a small squad… Everyone can see the situation, not because the coach shouts, ‘I want this’, or, ‘I want this’. The situation is very clear. We are trying to improve the situation but, for me and for my players, the best way now is to be focused on the pitch, to work, to try to improve and don’t think of the other situation.
“But, for sure, we hope, in the future, to improve this situation because you can see.”
Asked why more players have not arrived, he added: “I don’t know. I don’t know. I think about this. Everyone is trying to do their job but, for sure, I think this question is good for the club, not for me.”
Quizzed on what answers he had received on this topic in his talks with the board, Conte responded: “We have to wait. We have to wait for the best moment, the best solution. We have to wait.
“For the rest, and I can tell my opinion, but then there is a club to make the final decision and every decision is of the club. The final decision is always of the club.
“My task is to put in my work all myself and to try to bring my staff, my players to put in our job everyday all ourselves, to improve.”