Antonio Conte: Tottenham's structure ahead of Chelsea despite Prem title
LONDON -- Antonio Conte has claimed that it could take Chelsea up to four years to build the kind of "foundation" that Tottenham have established under Mauricio Pochettino, adding that he will only stay at Stamford Bridge beyond his current contract if his "vision" is shared by the Blues' hierarchy.
Chelsea take on Spurs at Wembley on Sunday with their Premier League title defence already in difficulty, courtesy of a shock 3-2 home defeat to Burnley on the opening day as well as several key injuries and suspensions.
Conte has endured a particularly frustrating summer, losing out on No. 1 striker target Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United and embarking on the new season with a dangerously thin squad, having seen eight sanctioned first-team departures balanced by just four new signings.
Tottenham, in contrast, have favoured continuity in this window, with Kyle Walker the only high-profile sale and Davinson Sanchez their only marquee acquisition as they head into Pochettino's fourth season as manager.
And Conte believes that despite last season's title triumph, Chelsea are well behind their bitter London rivals in the process of building the kind of structure that underpins long-term success.
"Spurs started to work with Pochettino three years [ago]," Conte said. "This is the fourth year and Pochettino has had the possibility to work for three years with the same players and have the possibility every season to improve his foundations.
"For every coach it's important to give continuity to the club because when you arrive you don't know what you'll find. And when you understand your basis you have to try to work step-by-step, year-by-year to improve this basis, to make this basis more solid and to build a good structure. To fight to win the title, to try to win.
"Last season we did a fantastic season because there wasn't this foundation or basis.
"For sure, last season we started to build this foundation and we won so it means we built something. But now it's not enough, so we have to improve, to extend this basis, work together with new players. I think Tottenham is doing this very well."
Asked if he thought it could take him four years to build this foundation, Conte replied: "Yeah, maybe. Maybe. To arrive and try to fight for Champions League, to try to fight to be the best in the world, you need time."
Conte's current contract runs until June 2019, and he and Chelsea took the unusual step of agreeing a new deal with improved financial terms rather than an extension this summer.
Pressed on why he had opted against a longer contract, Conte said: "But 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 continue.
"I don't see any problems about the future. Now we have two years left, but if we have the same vision we can continue to work together. I think that I stay in the right club at this point of my career."
This summer has seen a steady stream of reports claiming significant tension between Conte and the Chelsea board over transfer targets and overall recruitment strategy, as well as development of the club's academy prospects.
Asked if he and the Chelsea hierarchy share the same vision right now, Conte said: "I have the vision to work. I have only this vision. Then I repeat we have to continue to work. Sometimes slowly, slowly, to try to improve to build something important. But if you ask me how long this path is, my answer is we need time. Honestly we need time."
Since Roman Abramovich's arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2003, no Chelsea manager has lasted four full seasons in the job and only Jose Mourinho has seen a third, achieving the feat in both of his spells at the club.
Conte, however, insisted that immediate trophies are no indicator of long-term success and said he has no reason to doubt that Chelsea are willing to give him the time he needs.
"No one put a gun [to] my head and [said]: 'You win or you go away,'" he said. "The only thing I can promise is work, work, work and that I will try to do my best to improve the club. Sometimes you can win but you are not building something positive for your future.
"I like to be positive. Last season we started a difficult path. Despite this we won in my first season. It was incredible. But now we have started this path and we want to continue together to improve and to bring this club to have a solid foundation to stay a long time at the top and to try to fight to win the Champions League and the league. A club like Chelsea must have this ambition.
"But I repeat we need time. We must have patience to work. Now there are people working very hard to try to improve the situation. They are working for the best of the club. For this reason the fans must be happy."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.