Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits it could be years before his troubled team are capable of dominating at home and abroad.
Although Conte won the Premier League in his first season with Chelsea, the Blues boss claims the champions still lack the solid foundations required to compete for top prizes every year.
Under fire after Chelsea’s turbulent start to the season, Conte sent a pointed message to demanding Blues owner Roman Abramovich as he highlighted the way Mauricio Pochettino was given time to gradually turn Tottenham into title contenders over several seasons.
Conte, whose side face Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday, is convinced he needs a similar period of time before Chelsea are capable of dominating in both the Premier League and Champions League.
“Tottenham started to work with Pochettino three years ago. He has had the possibility to work with the same players and to try to improve this situation,” Conte said.
“For every coach it is important to have that continuity. When you arrive at a club you don’t know what you will find.
“When you understand your basis you have to go year by year to improve.
“Then you can make this basis more solid, to build a good structure, to fight for the title.”
Conte isn’t fooled by Chelsea’s success last season because he believes they rode their luck with virtually no injuries to key players.
“Last season we started to build this foundation and we won the title, but we were fortunate with injuries,” he said.
“Now it is not enough. To be the best in the world, you need time. There are many situations you can’t control.
“We have to improve. Maybe we need four years to try to fight for the Champions League.
“In football it’s not good to try to make the illusion. The only truth I can tell our fans is we are working very hard to try to have a good season.”
Conte’s awareness of Chelsea’s vulnerability has prompted his public complaints about the club’s failure to strengthen his squad.
The Italian has signed only three new players, while Nemanja Matic, John Terry, Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all departed and Diego Costa is in exile after the breakdown of his relationship with Conte.
With Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill suspended for the Tottenham clash, Conte is desperately short of options as he fights to avoid a second successive defeat.
– Vision –
Last weekend’s shock home loss against Burnley exposed the problems with Conte’s thread-bare squad and sparked speculation the Chelsea manager might quit or be sacked before the end of the season.
After clashing with his employers over transfers and the terms of his improved contract, Conte knows some people doubt whether Abramovich has the patience to oversee a major rebuild.
Abramovich axed Jose Mourinho and Roberto Di Matteo just months after they delivered Premier League and Champions League glory respectively.
But Conte, who was linked with a move to Inter Milan during his close-season contract squabble, says he remains committed to fulfilling his ambitions for Chelsea.
“For sure I have still two years, this season and next season, to work with this club. Then if we stay very well and we have the same vision, we will continue,” Conte said.
“I don’t see any problem about the future. I think I stay at the right club for this part of my career.
“I have the vision to work, sometimes slowly, to try to build something important.
“Nobody put a gun to my head to say ‘you win or you go away’.”