AFTER completing all of his media duties, Antonio Conte began walking up the Stamford Bridge tunnel before turning around and delivering three final words.
With a mischievous grin, he said: “See you soon . . . ”
Conte was clearly not expressing his wish to speak to the same sports journalists at the earliest opportunity.
What the Italian really meant was: “See you again — if I am not sacked.”
Conte’s light-hearted final comment came on the back of interviews where he repeatedly mentioned a scenario which featured his dismissal by Chelsea.
Curiously, at no stage was Conte being specifically asked about getting the boot by Roman Abramovich. But he kept talking about it, anyway.
Conte was asked about whether he was pleased with a recovery from 2-1 down? In his reply he said: “I don’t have this type of worry, if the club decides to sack me.”
Quizzed as to why he feels he is a different type of manager to previous Blues coaches, he said: “Only because in the past, the club decided after two losses or three bad games to sack a manager. If you ask if I feel this type of pressure about the club, it is zero.”
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Asked about his experience of dealing with tough situations, he said: “Honestly, I am not worried, I am very honest. I don’t feel this type of pressure.” You have to wonder if Conte would have replied to every question for the rest of the day about not being worried about the sack.
You can probably guess his answer when he returned home and was asked whether he had enjoyed a good day.
Because Conte is not worried about the sack, you see. Although he is clearly expecting it at some stage in the not-too-distant future, despite a fine recovery in Saturday’s exciting yet undeserved 4-2 win.
It was vital after defeats by Manchester City and Crystal Palace, along with the draw against Roma.
Nevertheless, it seems to be the beginning of the end for Conte which is a shame. He has every right to be relaxed about the situation – most of us would be with a £9million-a-year contract.
Considering the remarkable achievement of winning the title last season, combined with the fact that the Italian will argue that he was not helped by Chelsea’s lack of spending this summer, the manager will feel confident of landing an extremely decent job.
Conte enjoys a strong relationship with the supporters which, for the time being, gives him extra credit as his dismissal would go down incredibly badly, even though the fans are now expecting it.
The Stamford Bridge faithful let their frustrations be known when the team was trailing 2-1, but the anger was vented towards the under-performing players, not the coach.
For the time being, Conte is safe but you get the impression that with one more poor run in the Premier League — they remain nine points off Manchester City — or a Champions League disaster and Chelsea will not take too long to act.
The current problem is who they would appoint as manager. There is no doubt that Chelsea’s defence, which should have been 3-1 down before recovering, does look shaky.
Chelsea seemed fine when Pedro scored his excellent 25-yard goal but the impressive Abdoulaye Doucoure levelled, Roberto Pereyra made it 2-1 and Richarlison missed his second golden chance to grab a third.
Sub Michy Batshuayi made it 2-2 in the 71st minute before Watford switched off defensively.
Cesar Azpilicueta got the third in the 87th minute and Batshuayi grabbed his second in injury time.
Asked about the recent poor defending, Blues skipper Gary Cahill said: “It’s difficult to explain. Put it this way, against Roma I felt the work-rate was there but the intensity was slightly off.
“Last year, we were closing down all the way and rushing decisions from opponents. But the other night the work-rate was there but we were stand-offish. It’s easy to play football when everything is going well and you are winning games back-to-back.
“The hardest thing is when things are not going so well, and you have got to dig in and get results.
“Obviously this moment is one of them, hence why I said the result was good.
“But yes, when you’re in a difficult moment, the mood is obviously going to be slightly down, because everyone is going to be disappointed — they want to win. It’s not just this team, I would guess it is the same at every other big club.”
The problem for Cahill and Conte is that Chelsea are not the same as other big clubs. Most teams would never sack a manager who has just won a title.
Yet Chelsea, along with Leicester, have already proved they are happy to do just that.