Antonio Conte needs Chelsea to silence the doubters after his position came under unexpected scrutiny ahead of Leicester’s visit on Saturday.
Off the field, business is booming at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea’s club record kit deal with Nike that will see the American sportswear giants pay the Blues a reported £60 million per season for the next 15 years.
But, while Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich counts the cash, down at the club’s Cobham training ground, Blues boss Conte is plotting a way to stay in the Russian’s favour after a curious start to his reign.
The 47-year-old only arrived on a three-year contract in the close-season, yet on Thursday two bookmakers suspended betting on Conte being sacked amid a flurry of big wagers on his departure.
When Chelsea kicked off the Conte era with three successive league victories that scenario seemed impossible.
However, lacklustre defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal have put pressure on the former Italy and Juventus coach to prove he can mount a credible title challenge in his first season in England.
Even by Abramovich’s ruthless standards, it would be crazy to axe Conte so soon and Chelsea have given no indication that the Italian is on the way out.
Yet his frustration in the transfer market, where Conte was forced to make panic buys for defenders David Luiz and Marcos Alonso after missing out on his top targets, was the first sign it might not be all plain sailing at a club notorious for behind the scenes politicking that can make a manger’s life difficult.
Conte was already well aware of the task facing him as he tries to rebuild a squad that underachieved badly last season, costing Jose Mourinho his job in the process.
Hampered by injuries to key players, Conte’s renovations remain very much a work in progress and seventh placed Chelsea already trail five points behind leaders Manchester City.