Antonio Conte has revealed his calm exterior belies a host of anxieties over leading Chelsea into the new Premier League campaign.
The Chelsea manager rejected suggestions he cuts a cool and collected managerial figure, ahead of the Blues hosting West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.
After insisting he has no plans to let Nemanja Matic leave amid interest from Juventus in the 28-year-old midfielder, Italian Conte vowed to rebuild Chelsea’s fragile confidence after last season’s dispiriting 10th-place league finish.
“I think that I’m not very relaxed, because it’s the first time I have managed a new team in a new league in a new country,” said Conte, when asked if he is as calm as some suggest.
“That’s a fantastic challenge for me, also for my family. And for this reason I’m not very relaxed.
“I know that we are working very hard to be prepared for this new season.
“I know that we have to do a lot of work to improve, but we started and for this reason I’m very happy to start this fantastic experience. This is the best for me and I’m excited for this.”
Conte, who arrived at Chelsea after leading Italy at Euro 2016, added: “We are working about a new ideal, a new philosophy for football. I’m trying to bring in my principles, my ideas.
“And I know that the players are the same as last season, but also I know that these players two years ago won the title. And it’s important to find the right confidence.
“Because I think this team, this squad had lost a little the confidence for the past season, for last year.
“We are working also on this aspect, to play football, to play attractive football, to try to return very, very soon to fight for the right position for Chelsea.”
Conte expects Matic to stay at Stamford Bridge despite strong interest from Juventus.
“Nemanja is an important player for me, and he knows this,” said Conte.
“There isn’t a problem with him: Nemanja was a Chelsea player and is a Chelsea player.”
Confirming Bertrand Traore will join Ajax on a season-long loan, Conte revealed he has spent time with his Chelsea players trying to understand the reasons why the Blues slumped to a 10th-place Premier League finish last term.
“I speak a lot with my players, all my players,” said Conte.
“Usually when you arrive in a new club it’s important to get to know the players, all the aspects.
“It’s important to speak with all the players, to understand, to listen, why the last season was so bad.
“Because for the coach, for the first time arriving it’s important to go inside, into the head of the players to understand and solve the situation.
“Traore is a good prospect, he’s a prospect for a Chelsea player. He’s going on loan to Ajax, he’s a good player.”