Italian clearly has his doubts over certain members of the first-team squad and now faces European football for the first time with the Blues
ROMAN ABRAMOVICH is £186 million lighter but still you get the sense Antonio Conte wanted to spend more.
Tonight we will get to see whether Chelsea’s demanding manager has a legitimate case for raiding his boss’ wallet even more despite the massive transfer splurge in the summer.
Six big name players in but all Conte will say when pressed over whether his squad is strong enough to handle the Premier League title defence and a campaign in Europe is ‘we’ll see.’
That’s a man doing his best to sew doubts without having a pop at the person above who has signed the cheques up to now.
Conte has a new striker, two new midfielders, two defenders and an experienced keeper as back up to Thibaut Courtois.
Yet up front is where Conte may just have a point.
This evening against Azerbaijani minnows Qarabag we will see Michy Batshuayi lead the line in a vastly different looking Chelsea team.
Batshuayi is the Belgian who cost £32 million, more than Diego Costa, yet who has spectacularly failed to make the grade apart from one goal on one night which clinched the Premier League title last season after months in mothballs.
His case looks even worse after Conte revealed he made his mind up to dump madcap Costa as far back as January – but even then Batshuayi could not get a look in.
A fruitless chase for Fernando Llorente of Swansea – 32 years old – is another damning indictment of what Conte thinks of his number two striker.
And this is a relative rookie who ran Zlatan Ibrahimovic close in the goalscoring charts just two years ago before his big move to England.
The 3-4-3 formation which Conte employs doesn’t allow for two forwards so Batshuayi is never going to play alongside Morata.
A £32 million ‘misfit’ who could walk into any Premier League team outside the top six with ease – just ask West Ham who tried to sign him two years back.
But surely there is nowhere else Conte needs to plant new faces in a squad that after the summer transfer window looks formidable on paper?
Yet Conte has doubts too about Willian, the most un-Brazilian Brazilian in the game.
His darting runs and direct style should make him perfectly suited to the breakneck speed of the Premier League yet he can’t get a game.
Two seasons ago he was player of the year and saved Chelsea’s backsides with his set-piece goals.
Now though Conte has got his eyes on a tactical shift. Throw right wing back Victor Moses forwards and squeeze Duracell bunny Cesar Azpilicueta into the slot. Antonio Rudiger is a right sided centre half and Willian is history – the fuzzball who was the only bright spot of a disastrous season in 2016.
How on earth Conte could want to ditch Marcos Alonso is one of football’s great mysteries.
Two goals to turn the season around in a 2-1 win at Tottenham in the second game of the season. Just as things were unravelling for the champions, Alonso appeared through the mist and saved his skin.
Yet Conte courted Juve’s Alex Sandro all summer with three ever-increasing bids and seems hell-bent on finding a replacement.
If this is what Conte does to his friends then don’t ever become his enemy – as Costa is finding out while in self-imposed exile abroad.
Chelsea fans tonight will be hoping to see Andreas Christiansen at the heart of defence. Another area where Conte went shopping a few weeks back when the days were longer.
While Danish by birth he’s been at Stamford Bridge long enough to be considered ‘one of their own – but at Chelsea if you’re from the youth team it usually means you’re finished.
This evening we’ll get to see what’s scratching away just under the surface at the home of the champions and if nothing else the game should tell us plenty about Conte’s true feelings about the squad.