Antonio Conte insists his priority at Chelsea is to win and not keep all his players happy.
A combination of a lack of European football and a 13-game win streak in the Premier League has meant the Italian’s starting lineup has remained largely unchanged this season.
Big personalities such as captain John Terry and Cesc Fabregas have therefore been starved of game time, but Conte has challenged his squad players to put pressure on him to make changes.
“When he doesn’t start in the lineup, he’s not happy, but not only John, or Cesc, or Pedro, or [Eden] Hazard,” Conte said ahead of the FA Cup tie against Wolves. “I want the player to try to fight to put me under pressure, to give me the problems to solve [and find] the best solutions for the team.
“It’s important to understand that when you stay in a great team, the most important thing, the target, is to win, not to try [and] have 21 players happy and you don’t win anything.
“The owner doesn’t ask this: to make 21 players happy. I’m happy if we win, not if we lose and have 21 players happy.”
The 47-year-old believes his playing experience, which included five league titles with Juventus, has helped him to manage those who are not playing every week equally.
“I was a footballer, I know what happens in the changing room,” Conte claims. “For the players that are used to playing every game, for the players that are not playing a lot. For the players that are not playing, but this situation is normal in the changing room.
“I have the same things for every single player, not more thought for 11 players or 12 players. I try always to pay great attention for every single player.
“It’s important, this. I want to give them a great respect because I demand this. It’s the right way to have a good dressing room.”
Conte has achieved just that in just seven months: an excellent team spirit.
The trip to Molineux therefore represents what he describes as “a big opportunity” to hand a rest to David Luiz and Marcos Alonso, who have been nursing knocks. Terry and Nathan Ake, recently back from his successful loan with Bournemouth, could therefore come into the lineup.
The former Azzurri boss declares that he enjoys an open dialogue with his players and that his door is always open to those unhappy with their amount of playing time.
“I think that the best way is to leave your door always open. If I have to make a choice, it’s not important to explain this choice.
“If the player wants to ask me, the player knows my door is always open to explain the reason why I make this decision. I like to speak with the player and explain.
“When you are honest with your choices, you can always see your players straight in the eyes.”