Antonio Conte is adamant that he didn’t intend to use Chelsea‘s first game of the Premier League season to expose the Blues’ summer of stagnation.
Speaking after Chelsea kicked off its title defence with a 3-2 defeat to Burnley at Stamford Bridge, Conte rejected the insinuation that he was trying to send a message to the Blues’ hierarchy. The club’s bench featured a number of young footballers, while Jeremie Boga, only 20 yards old, made his first-ever start.
Replying to the suggestion that he might have intended to highlight Chelsea’s summer recruitment, Conte said, according to the Guardian’s Barney Ronay: “You don’t know me very well. You can see that in every friendly game I always played the best formation and I did the same today. My choice was to put out the best players that we have in this moment. I don’t like this type of idea, someone sending a message. I want to win today, not send a message.”
Of the five players brought to Chelsea during the summer transfer window, only Antonio Rudiger was named to the starting lineup, while Alvaro Morata, who is reportedly valued at £58 million, was assigned to the Blues’ bench along with Willy Caballero.
Boga’s appearance lasted just 18 minutes. The Ivorian attacker was replaced by Andreas Christensen after Chelsea was reduced to 10 players by virtue of Gary Cahill’s red card. The Blues finished the match with nine players following the sending-off of Cesc Fabregas.
Not since 1971 had Burnley beaten Chelsea.