N’Golo Kante’s absence from Chelsea initially saw the team go winless in their following two games, but Antonio Conte has insisted his side have a plan B after defeating Watford and Everton.
Kante won the PFA Player of the Year award last season after his £32 million move from Leicester City but he picked up a hamstring injury while away with the France national team in early October.
Chelsea’s match against Bournemouth on Saturday comes too soon for Kante, with his manager believing he could return against Roma on Tuesday. Conte is happy that Chelsea have learned how to play without their midfielder after initially blaming his absence for a downturn in form a few weeks ago.
“For sure, it is not simple to play without N’Golo because he is an important player for us, but now I think that the team is used to playing without him,” Conte said at a news conference at Cobham Training Centre. "But I hope to see him back very soon with us.
“There are players with the same characteristics but N’Golo is a really good player. He is becoming a top player for his characteristics, but in the world there are many players with the same characteristics.
“[Danny] Drinkwater is almost ready and Kante is at the stage almost to come back with us. The only problem now that we have to face is that we need more time with Moses.”
Conte gave one of his most impassioned press conferences yet ahead of Saturday’s evening kick off away to Bournemouth. He reacted angrily to reports that Chelsea were looking to replace him with his friend Carlo Ancelotti or Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri.
The 48-year-old was even more annoyed with reports that his players were text messaging ex-Chelsea No.2 coach Steve Holland about being unhappy at his training methods. However, despite these reports and his side's patchy form, Conte says that this season hasn’t been as difficult as his first year in west London.
“It was tougher at the start because to arrive in a new country, to adapt yourself with a new type of football, new language, new habits. It wasn't easy,” Conte added.
“I found a situation with a lot of troubles, yes, and I found a situation after 10 games. I found a lot of troubles and last season I tried to solve these problems. I think I solved a lot of problems.
“Don’t forget that season we won [the title] but not one person predicted this at the start of the season of our squad after our transfer window. I think we did a really fantastic job last season but now we have to try to continue in this way and continue to work and continue to try and solve the problems, to create something important for the club.
“It is not easy. Some people can think to win is easy but it is not easy. It is not easy. You try to ask the winners if it is easy to win, it is a path and you have to follow this path and in this path there is a lot of sacrifice a lot of work, patience, a lot of things.”