The Chelsea head coach undertook his final pre-match press conference of the campaign ahead of the visit of Watford to Stamford Bridge on Sunday
Given everything that’s happened off the pitch and on the pitch this season, have you had a more challenging season as a manager?
“No, this makes it maybe at the very top of the list of seasons that we’ve had. I don’t judge seasons like this because in the moment and while you are doing it as a manager, it always feels challenging and always feels demanding. I don’t judge it as if it’s more demanding.
“In that moment you adapt to the situation – or you try to adapt – and you try to find solutions and it’s always challenging. It can be from results, from the atmosphere in the dressing room, from crazy things like sanctions, which nobody could predict or ever think of.
“It was very challenging but at the same time, it was also demanding but also a lot of fun. This is a pure pleasure to be in the middle of it and still have the chance to guide the team and to be a part of it. So it is fine. We always try to adapt and find solutions.”
The home form has been disappointing this season, what needs to change for that to be different?
“Of course, I think we can do better. I think it is not a lot; it is margins. We will look into that – it is not the moment when I have analysed everything and I don’t have the answer because we would have changed it before. We struggle with efficiency, with goal scoring records, with consistency, with determination, with precision in the box against teams who defend deep.
“It is like this, but we lack huge quality with N’Golo (Kante), Ben Chilwell, Reece James [being injured]. If you see him in the last weeks, it is maybe a miracle we are in the top three the whole season without these key players because we missed them for weeks and weeks and weeks and it never stopped for us.
“Maybe this just needs to change, that we have everybody available. But the top teams, Liverpool bought a fantastic player (Luis Diaz) in the winter to make the existing squad stronger. Man City signed (Erling) Haaland already to make the existing squad stronger. We are losing players so at the moment my focus is to build a strong team and to see what’s even possible and then we think about how we close the gap.”
The supporters displayed a banner for you ahead of the Leicester game, you must be really proud of that?
“I was very happy – I never had a banner. I was looking at the banner for Mason Mount until somebody told me there was another banner on the other side [for me]. So very nice and thank you very much and I will do my best to earn it.”
I don’t believe Todd Boehly has seen Chelsea win a game…
“Was he here again [against Leicester]? Well, that’s a clear sign! He will watch on ESPN in Los Angeles next season. It is clear already. If it is like this it is clear.”
Might that actually help you when it comes to talking to him about the investment in the squad you need?
“Yes, but I don’t know. We will be very open and honest. He will get my point of view if he wants to have it. Of course, we lose key players and we struggle lately to win our home games. He was at the final in Wembley too. So, maybe when the deal is done and he is our owner, he is the lucky charm that we need. We give him some more credit.”
You mentioned a few weeks ago that you needed to have an honest conversation with Kepa Arrizabalaga about his future, have you had that conversation and where do you see his future?
“It depends what he wants and it depends what his plans are, but I know that we are very privileged to have Edou (Mendy) and Kepa in our squad. I know for sure that Kepa is not happy about the situation and he deserves to play more and he can be a strong number one.
“He arrived as a number one goalkeeper so the situation is not easy. I can tell you that he is a fantastic team player since day one and always was and never let anybody down. So no, we did not have this conversation. I know the goalkeepers coaches have these conversations at the moment and then we will take our time to speak with him, reflect what’s best, what the possibilities are and I’m, of course as a coach, super happy to have both strong goalkeepers. Let’s see.”
You’ve spoken about the influence of N’Golo Kante, is Reece James also that sort of player for Chelsea?
“Not yet given the history of N’Golo and the titles and what he did over the years and with the national team, all the success. He (James) has everything that it takes to be one of the very best, but there is a long way to go for Reece.
“There is some incredible potential and he has the ability, the foundation, the body, the physique, the mindset to make his way to the very top, but there is still a long way to go. We will support him. We will push him so he can be that player for Chelsea.”
Roy Hodgson is set to retire after Sunday’s game after a long career, do you see yourself coaching to a similar age as him, 74 years old? Maybe you feel that age already after this season…
“I don’t feel that old – and he does not look that old. I’m happy to meet him again. I met him once before we played against each other. I met him here in London in a round to discuss performance which was very nice. I was coach of Dortmund at the time I think and he was very impressive, super friendly, a gentleman and very open in sharing his point of view and his opinions.
“It is nice to be at the sideline with him. If it is his last game he deserves full credit for his career and it is impressive that at this kind of age he still has the energy and commitment and the love for the game. I think it can happen to me to be very honest, but let’s see.”
You’ll still love football in 26 years’ time?
“I’m pretty sure, I’m pretty sure.”