LONDON — Antonio Conte claimed that Chelsea do not have the players to be successful with a more expansive style of football after a dogged defensive display saw off Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
Eden Hazard broke the deadlock at Wembley when he won and converted a penalty in the 22nd minute and Chelsea spent much of the remainder of the game sitting deep to protect their lead, with Antonio Rudiger ultimately named man of the match for his part in keeping an uninspired United attack at bay.
After the match Hazard warned that Chelsea will have to be more ambitious in their approach if they want to win trophies in the future, but Conte insisted that his game plan was necessitated by the players currently at his disposal.
“I can find the right way to win this trophy but for sure if you ask me, we can play better,” he said. “We can play better but now, the real situation of this club is this. We have to play strong defensively if we want to win a trophy or take a place in the Champions League.
“Maybe we missed the Champions League this season because we tried to play very open, and in this moment you can’t do this. To concede three goals in seven games this season means you don’t have stability. A great team doesn’t concede four goals against Watford.
“Today it was the only way to lift a trophy. Now we are in this moment. If we want to change we can change our idea, but we must change many players.”
Conte has insisted all season that Chelsea have not underachieved despite finishing fifth in the Premier League, and he reiterated this belief at Wembley.
“We must be honest in this season,” he added. “The mountain to climb was very high but despite this we finished with an important trophy. Last season despite our win in the league we weren’t able to do this [win the FA Cup].
“We must be pleased because when you win in a difficult season like this it means there is great work behind, great commitment from my players.”
Conte is expected to leave Chelsea in the coming days amid long-standing tensions with the club hierarchy over transfer policy, coupled with a spectacular decline in results since the turn of the year and a management style that has begun to wear on some of his players.
Yet he insisted that he has no regrets.
“When you decide to take a coach like me, you must know who you are taking for this job,” he said. “I cannot change my personality, my idea of football.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.