Chelsea players back under-fire Antonio Conte after woeful result at Watford

Chelsea players are right behind Antonio Conte as the pressure mounted on the under-fire coach. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Chelsea players back under-fire Antonio Conte after woeful result at Watford

LONDON: Chelsea players are right behind Antonio Conte as the pressure mounted on the under-fire coach.
At the time of going to press the Italian was still the boss at Stamford Bridge. But following Monday night’s shock 4-1 defeat at Watford, speculation is mounting over just how long Conte can stay in charge of a side that has struggled for form all season following last year’s dominant march to the title.
The loss at Watford followed another surprise reverse, this time at home with a 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth. Those results came on the back of an indifferent start to 2018 amid rumors that Conte has been unhappy at the club.
But while the situation was yet to be resolved Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said Conte had the backing of the dressing room.
“We believe in the manager and we believe in our team. We have two bad results and we just try to get back, regroup and just continue,” the Belgian said.
“We showed that we wanted to fight even with 10 men and that shows we have character, but when you lose twice like that it is not good and there are questions raised, but we go back to training with the manager, and training well and turn this situation around.
“We have to work hard again and hope that the victories come because it was a bad week.”

WINNING WAYS
At 70.3 percent, Antonio Conte has the joint-best win rate of any manager in Premier League history, level with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

The Chelsea stopper was backed up by skipper Gary Cahill, who said: “The manager has done an absolutely unbelievable job; the players have to take the responsibility.”
For Conte the ball was very much in Cheslea’s court. After the Watford match the Italian said he was still in charge and working to finish the season on
a high.
“Tomorrow is another day. I can be the Chelsea coach or not, what is the problem?” said Conte. “I go to sleep without a problem.
“I try to do everything and, if this is enough OK, otherwise the club take a different decision. The life goes on.”
Defeat leaves Chelsea lagging in fourth and just a point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the battle for the top four.
Conte has repeatedly complained throughout the campaign at his lack of input toward the club’s recruitment strategy.
Once more the Italian lined up without a recognized striker at Vicarage Road, with Alvaro Morata sidelined by injury and new-signing Olivier Giroud deemed fit enough only for a place on the bench.
However, Conte also delivered a stinging criticism to his players, saying they “played with fear.”
“I try to continue to work to try to improve different aspects of my players, but today I think our performance was very poor,” Conte said.
“For sure I have to take the responsibility because maybe I made the wrong decision for the starting XI.
“To play football in a big club, it means you must have personality. It is simple to play when there is the confidence. In this type of moment you can see who is (made) for a great club, to play with personality to risk something.”

NEW BLUES BOSS?
Arab News runs the rule over Antonio Conte’s possible replacements should the Italian get his marching orders…
LUIS ENRIQUE: The favorite to take the poisoned chalice should Conte get the axe. The former Barcelona boss is free having taken a sabbatical (lucky man…) and with a CV that includes a Champions League win and two league and cup doubles, he has just the sort of pedigree the Blues board salivate over.
BRENDAN RODGERS: This is not as far-fetched as you may be thinking. At Celtic the Northern Irishman has repaired much of the (unfair) damage to his reputation following his sacking by Liverpool and having worked at Chelsea before, he is well aware of the backroom machinations that have seemingly troubled Conte this season.
GUUS HIDDINK: Been there, seen it, done it — that is the tale when it comes to the Dutchman and Chelsea. Has had two interim stints at Stamford Bridge before (he won the FA Cup in 2009 following Luiz Felipe Scolari’s sacking) and it is easy to see why Roman Abromovich might turn to his friend once more. If the Blues went for a caretaker boss until the summer, then Hiddink will likely be their man.
DIEGO SIMEONE: For the past three seasons at least Simeone has been linked with every big European club job going. The Argentine, however, has done that very rare thing in football and shown remarkable loyalty to current employers Atletico Madrid. While he has just signed a two-year contract extension he may well think now is the time to leave the Spanish capital if Chelsea come calling.
MARCO SILVA: Three months ago the Portuguese was the hottest young coach in the world. Time moves pretty quickly in football and since then he has been sacked by Watford — an approach from Everton seemingly taking his mind off the job and causing the slump which saw him axed. Abramovich has a history with young, highly rated coaches from Portugal — could he employ another?


Solid start in Asian Games for ‘work in progress’ Saudi Arabia

Updated 15 August 2018
0

Solid start in Asian Games for ‘work in progress’ Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabian coach Saad Al-Shehri promised his U23 side will improve after goalless draw
  • Young Falcons are back in action on Friday, against Myanmar

JAKARTA: Saudi Arabian coach Saad Al-Shehri promised his U23 side will find their scoring boots after twice striking the woodwork on Wednesday night during a scoreless draw with Iran in the opening match of their Asian Games campaign in Indonesia.
At the Wibawa Mukti Stadium, the Young Falcons demonstrated impressive technique, particularly the midfield pairing of Al-Shabab’s Nasser Al-Omran and Al-Ahli’s Yousef Al-Harbi, but ultimately failed to take their chances against an Iran side happy to defend deep and play on the counter-attack.
“We played well, but not very well,” said coach Al-Shehri. “With the players we have, a better result was possible. The first match of any tournament is difficult and we played against a team who have a strong defense and implement fast transitions. We made three or four chances to score, so cannot be too disappointed. This is just the start though and we have at least two more matches. Now we must improve — and we will.”
As early as the sixth minute, Al-Qadisiyah striker Haroune Camara showed glimpses of why national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi had been tempted to take him to the World Cup this summer.
The strapping 20-year-old outmuscled two Iranian defenders before rounding the goalkeeper, but his shot at goal was bundled on to the post by a back-tracking defender. A minute later, Al-Ahli playmaker Ayman Al-Khulaif could have opened the scoring, but saw his tame shot cleared off the line.
“We tried our best, but we did not have luck to win,” said Abdulrahman Ghareeb, the diminutive Al-Ahli midfielder. “I promise in the next two games we will be better and get the results required to progress. We played well and remain confident.”
For all Saudi’s dominance, it was Iran who could have gone in with a goal advantage at the break when a defensive mix-up allowed Mohammedreza Azadi Andizeh to toe-poke past Mohammed Ayami in the Saudi goal. This time it was left to Abdullah Tarmin to clear off the line at the other end. And while Alyami was called into action again early in the second period, with the temperature recorded at 34 degrees Celsius, the intensity unsurprisingly waned as the game went on.
“Always, when the weather is hot like this, it makes problems and we saw that in the second half,” said Al-Shehri.
“We talked to the players at half-time about how to maintain the physical level until the end because if you play against a team like Iran that plays counter attack, you need to be wary of leaving big spaces in behind.”
Al-Shehri’s words seemed to work. In added time, and with a flurry of late substitutes sucking all rhythm out of the contest, a final energetic Saudi attack resulted in Nawaf Al-Habashi latching on to a smart cut-back from the byline and firing toward goal. Once again, however, there was a roadblock in the way as the ball cannoned back off the far post.
“We need to improve the team’s personality and build a good squad for the next tournament, the U23 Asian Cup,” said Al-Shehri. “That is what we are trying to do here. Win games, but also build a team that can qualify for Tokyo 2020.”
There is no time to waste in their quest — the Young Falcons are back in action on Friday, against Myanmar.