Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes Arsenal could be title contenders this season.
On the eve of the Community Shield, it seems Conte is starting the mind-games.
In comparison to other Chelsea managers, Conte seems like a nice guy, one who doesn’t go out of his way to take pot shots at the club. However, it’s hard not be suspicious of his latest comments about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
“Arsenal are a potential rival this season. I consider Arsenal as one of the six teams that are ready to fight for the title,” Conte said, as reported by the Evening Standard.
“Arsenal have a really good squad. They have the same potential as last season when they were prepared (had a squad big enough) to play in the League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.
“They haven’t lost players and they have bought Lazazette. They have improved because they have kept the same squad as last season.
“They have players like Ozil and Sanchez, a lot of good players and for sure they’re a good team.”
This may well be his genuine opinion, but it also reads as a textbook method of ratcheting up the pressure on Arsenal ahead of what is already a high-stakes season.
After missing out on Champions League football last season, the bare minimum this season is to regain our place in the top four. On top of that, fans also expect Arsenal to have a go at the title.
You get the feeling that tolerance for failure this season is as threadbare as its ever been. Part of that could be due to Wenger signing a new contract despite everything that happened last season. Conte, though, thinks keeping Wenger was the right decision.
He said: “I consider Arsene Wenger one of the best managers. I think it’s right (he stayed) because he is a really good coach.
“He has had a lot of time to build his team and squad – he is the right choice for them.
“I’m not surprised he stayed. He is one of the best managers in the world, Arsenal are one of the best teams. This is right.”
Arsenal play Chelsea for the second time this pre-season later today, in a re-match of last season’s FA Cup final.