Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is once again struggling for options up front today, with new boy Olivier Giroud lacking match fitness, Alvaro Morata still absent due to a back injury and Michy Batshuayi having left to join Borussia Dortmund on loan.
The Blues’ squad was bolstered by the arrival of striker Giroud and defender Emerson Palmieri on the final day of the January transfer window on Wednesday, but Conte does not expect the duo to be fit enough to make an impact at Watford in the Premier League today. Palmieri just returned from a long layoff due to a cruciate ligament injury, while Giroud had a hamstring problem in his final weeks at Arsenal.
“Olivier is coming (back) from a muscular injury, he was out for 50 days before he played 15 minutes in the game against Swansea (for Arsenal, on Tuesday),” Conte said. “It won’t be easy for him to start.”
The champions need to bounce back from a humiliating 3-0 home thrashing by Bournemouth on Wednesday, which put further strain on Conte’s relationship with the Chelsea hierarchy after the Italian described his preparations for the match as a “disaster” due to a busy few days before the transfer window closed.
The recruiting of Giroud, Palmieri and Ross Barkley last month brought Chelsea’s number of signings since winning the title to 10.
But Conte suggested that the club need a different transfer strategy to compete for trophies.
He believes the Blues have to be more like Manchester City and Manchester United – spending top dollar on quality signings, not quantity.
“We must understand our level,” said Conte of his fourth-placed side before this morning’s (Singapore time) game between third-placed Liverpool and fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
“Now we struggle for a Champions League place. In the future, you have to buy two or three players – not eight.”
Watford, in desperate need of points themselves as new manager Javi Gracia targets a first win since replacing the sacked Marco Silva, have also strengthened.
They brought in forward Gerard Deulofeu on loan from Barcelona, and midfielders Didier Ndong and Dodi Lukebakio.
“We now have three new players in positions where we needed to improve,” said Gracia, with the Hornets recording one win from their last 12 league matches.