BY PAUL LAGAN and SAM SMITH
Antonio Conte was in an edgy mood following his charges 3-0 over Newcastle United in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
As the transfer window’s closure looms on Wednesday and the club struggling to find a striker to boost the ranks with Mich Batshuayi seemingly heading out on loan
A brace from Michy Batshuayi and a corker free kick from Marcos Alonso saw off the aggressive Geordies.
“I think it was a good performance,” Conte said.
“It wasn’t going to be easy because Newcastle played a very defensive game with five players on the edge of the box, three midfielders very deep and two strikers. I think it was very important to score the first goal.
“After Michy scored, the game was more simple for us and in the second half we controlled the game.
“We did not risk conceding a goal so we must be very happy but it was not easy.”
Of Batshuayi, the Italian said: “I don’t know if this is the best game for us.
His goal was very important for the team and for him because it is very good for the striker to score – it is important for the confidence.
“As you know we are talking about a young player with great potential. The most important thing for me is the present and future. I would take other choices.
“I think in the year-and-a-half at Chelsea, he has improved a lot in many tactical situations. We are talking about a powerful player, strong physically. For sure he has a lot of space for improvement and my task is to work with him but also every single player.
“I’m very happy for him and very happy for the team. I want to continue in this way and I want us to recover for the next game against Bournemouth.”
Batshuayi never seems to have the full confidence of Conte.
He said of his Belgium striker: “If you see our squad we do not have three, four, five strikers – we have two strikers.
“We have Alvaro Morata and Batshuayi. Morata now is out and the other option is Hazard.
“I think Hazard is a different striker but he can play easily up front, and we have played in the past in this way.
“My task is to exploit every single player in the best way. For sure, the best performance for the press depends if the striker scores or does not score. For me it is good to score because you are more likely to win but at the same time it is important that the striker works very well for the team. I think Michy can improve a lot.”
With the transfer window ending on Wednesday – the chances of him getting a loan are still in limbo. But it’s up to the player according to his coach.
“I do not know. When you have to play League, Champions League and then FA Cup, I think three strikers is the minimum.
“We will have to see what happens in the transfer market. Another player? Probably, I don’t know. We are able to take another player. It does not mean that if we take another player Michy must go on loan. We have a lot of competition. Three strikers is the minimum.”
Pressed on the need for the Belgium to play ahead of the World Cup, Conte would only say: “This is a different talk.
For sure I know there is a World Cup competition and every player wants to play and try to push the coach of their national team to call him for the World Cup.
“I think this is another situation and in this case if the club decides to add another player then I don’t know if Michy wants to go on loan.
“In this case it is the player’s decision and not my decision. For me I’m ready to continue to work with these players. I’m very happy with all my players.”
There is talk of Roma’s Edin Dzeko coming but it’s yet to materialise – prompting suggestions of a holdup in talks.
Conte said: “Ross Barkley arrived early, no? Barkley was a good signing. As you know the transfer market is not simple and you sometimes end up at the end (of the transfer window) trying to look for the best solutions.
Sometimes that is not a good solution especially in January, the transfer market is not simple. At the same time, the club is trying to do the best to improve the team.”
Chelsea may have to play with Hazard up front if Batshuayi leaves. Chelsea have a game on Wednesday and Morata is struggling to be fit.
“He is going to start training from tomorrow,” said Conte.
“But not with us (the team). He needs a bit of time to recover. We hope to have this player very soon.”