'Spineless' Chelsea need to find leaders: Antonio Conte

Conte admits he needs to find a solution to Chelsea\'s problems very quickly, even if it means working through the night.

Published: 26th September 2016 08:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2016 08:55 AM   |  A+A-

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Chelsea team manager Antonio Conte, center, gestures during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London. | AP

Antonio Conte accused his Chelsea players of being "spineless" and lacking a soul during their dismal 3-0 defeat by Arsenal on Saturday that confirmed the size of the task in front of him.

The squad can now expect to be treated to a video nasty of exactly what went wrong when they return to work today after Conte resisted the temptation to cancel their day off.

Chelsea's head coach was shocked by the way in which his players surrendered at the Emirates during a first half in which Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil scored for the home side.

The Italian gave his damning verdict during a half-time inquest in which the players also aired their views, describing the performance as a "disaster".

Gary Cahill, who was at fault for Arsenal's first goal from Sanchez, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois let their anger spill on to the pitch. Cahill shouted at Courtois to come for the ball, while the Belgian goalkeeper screamed at his defence after making a good save with his feet from Walcott in the second half.

Asked if he was angry at half-time, Conte said: "Yes but I prefer to keep my words private, because it's right when I talk with my players to keep what I tell them. This is normal. Because there are rules in the dressing room and you must respect this.

"Sure I was angry, but my players were also angry," he added. "Because we weren't satisfied with our game, with our performance.

"We had a bad performance together - me first, my staff second and then the players. It is important to take this experience as an opportunity to understand that if we want to come back very soon, to fight for something important in England, it is important to improve.

"It is important to improve, it is important to show during the game how to be a great team and not only one on paper."

One of the biggest and most difficult problems Conte has to address at Chelsea is the lack of real leadership on the pitch, which is felt by the players.

For years, Chelsea could rely on John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba to help pull them through games, but, of those big characters, only Terry remains and he was out injured for the Arsenal game.

Heads dropped as soon as the first goal was conceded in the 11th minute and there were no individuals capable of either inspiring or simply demanding an improvement from their team-mates.

The fact that Branislav Ivanovic is vice-captain and skippers Chelsea in Terry's absence could be used as an example of where they are going wrong.

It is not just a mystery to fans, but also many of the players as to how Ivanovic has kept his place in the Chelsea team during an awful run of form that stretches over 12 months.

The defender is not seen as a real leader and his attempt to applaud the Chelsea travelling fans at the final whistle looked no more than a token effort, as he kept a good distance to avoid facing any possible abuse.

It was Ivanovic who played a poor pass to Cahill that put the England centre-half under pressure and resulted in his mistake that let in Sanchez for the first goal.

The defending was just as bad for the second and third goals, and Ivanovic was also booked for a foul on Alex Iwobi just outside the penalty area.

Conte switched to a back three in the second half and it can surely only be a matter of time until Ivanovic loses his place and Cesar Azpilicueta is moved to the right, either as a full-back or a wing-back.

Despite refusing to single out his defence, Conte will be well aware that it is by far his biggest problem. Chelsea have conceded at least two goals in each of their last four games and have badly missed 35-year-old Terry, which tells its own story.

"I don't want to talk about defenders, midfielders or strikers," said Conte. "Because I think we lose and we win as a team. Today we

understood - me first, then the players - that this league is very tough. We must improve a lot if we want to stay up [near the top], and not in the middle of the table.

"I think that when you want to win, you must have a good balance. When you attack and when you defend. I think that this is the right way if you want to win. If you don't, you have up and down, up and down.

"It's important to work together in defensive situations and to work together in offensive situations. Not with only strikers, wingers and midfielders in offensive situations. Or with only defenders in defensive situations. No, we must work together. We can improve a lot. It's important to understand this and to try to work together."

Conte admits he needs to find a solution to Chelsea's problems very quickly, even if it means working through the night.

"I don't sleep, sure," said Conte. "I don't sleep. This is normal. After this game, this defeat, it's normal for me not to sleep. Not only tonight, but for two nights. When I don't sleep, I reflect. And it's important to reflect.

"I have to find the solution very, very soon because today, I think that we played a very bad game," he added.

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