Antonio Conte has said the departure of technical director Michael Emenalo in November was a big blow for the Blues to recover from, Fox Sports Asia reports.
Emenalo spent 10 years at Chelsea, first as head opposition scout, then assistant first team coach, before finally being promoted to technical director.
Although Conte’s criticisms of Chelsea’s recruitment policy were perceived as signs of frustrations with the Nigerian, the Chelsea manager has now heaped praise on him.
“To lose Michael, it was a big loss for us, yes,” said Conte, according to The Observer.
“I think so, I think so. Also because Michael did a great job for this club for many years. Last season, he helped me a lot during the season. This season, until he left, he helped me a lot. I remember very well he left just after the Manchester United game… For me, for sure, it was a big loss in November.”
Emenalo is now the sporting director at AS Monaco and has not been replaced at Chelsea. Conte kept his cards close to his chest regarding a potential substitute for him.
“But this is not my decision. As you know very well, my task is to work very hard. This is not my decision. This is the decision for others. I’m not in a position to say (whether an expert in that field should be hired),” he said.
Meanwhile, Conte claims Chelsea have no chance of an FA Cup final victory over Manchester United unless they improve quickly after questioning the desire of his players, AFP reports.
The Italian has demanded a vast improvement after a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday ended a disappointing Premier League season which has seen last year’s title winners fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Conte’s side has a chance to atone for a below-par fifth-place finish – which condemned them to a place in next season’s Europa League – when they face United at Wembley on May 19.
In what is widely expected to be Conte’s last game in charge as Chelsea come up against former manager Jose Mourinho, the 48-year-old acknowledged his side need to up their levels in all departments to have any hope of clinching the trophy for the first time since 2012.
“We wanted to end the season in the best possible way, but we can do better than this,” he said.
“For that, I’m the first to answer for this bad game. Newcastle showed greater desire and fight, and if we play like this in the FA Cup final we don’t have a chance.