Antonio Conte hit back emphatically at the suggestion he picked a weakened Chelsea team against Burnley in order to send a message to the club’s board.
The champions slumped to an opening day 3-2 defeat against Burnley at Stamford Bridge having been reduced to nine men following the dismissals of Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.
Conte handed youngster Jeremie Boga a debut with Victor Moses suspended, while there were also places on the substitutes’ bench for Charly Musonda, Kyle Scott, Fikayo Tomori and the disgraced Kenedy, who is reportedly closing in on a loan move to Newcastle having been sent home from the club’s pre-season tour of China for posting an insulting video on Instagram.
The Italian manager has repeatedly spoken of his concerns relating to the size of his squad throughout the summer, but denied picking such an inexperienced bench was designed to force the club’s hierarchy into action over the remaining weeks of the transfer window.
‘Why ask this question? You were not happy with my 11?’ said Conte when asked if his selection was influenced by his dissatisfaction at Chelsea’s transfer policy this summer.
‘You don’t know me very well and you can see in our pre-season I have always played the best formation and it happened the same today.
‘I put the best player we had with this moment. I don’t like this type of thing, about wanting to send a message? Why would I do that?’
Conte has spent well over £100million during the close season on Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger but is desperate for further reinforcements to arrive, particularly in central midfield and at wing-back.
With injuries and suspensions mounting, Conte will hope the club can force through a deal for Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater before next Sunday’s clash with Tottenham at Wembley, having already seen one bid rejected for the Premier League winning midfielder.