Antonio Conte has once again asserted his commitment to remain Chelsea manager despite the current dip in form and he has bemoaned the effect of constant speculation around his future.
The Chelsea head coach has a contract until 2019 but has recently lost 3-0 at home to Bournemouth and 4-1 away to Watford which has dragged the club into a battle for a place in the top four.
Despite those setbacks and the difficult road ahead, Conte thinks that some of the criticism of him and his team has been overblown in the past fortnight.
“I think that maybe there are a lot of rumours and speculation, despite... We are doing... we are keeping our expectations," Conte told reporters at Cobham Training Ground. "I don't think that anyone trusted us to win the title this season.
"If I remember back, there were two teams fighting for the title, both from Manchester. Also last season. We started behind (them). For this reason, there are too many speculations around this club, around me, around this team.
"I think that, maybe, you have to find a bit more balance. I understand that we have to live with this pressure, and it's okay for me. It's okay for me and my players.
"I don't think talking about my future can affect the players. Otherwise, from the first game we lost against Burnley, this could have happened. My players are not used to it, but they are getting used to these rumours and speculation. But, for sure, I'm very happy.
"I'm very happy with the commitment of my players, and the behaviour of my players. The players show me every day they want to overcome this situation. This situation, I repeat, we are talking about a team that is fourth in the league, that is preparing to face the game against Barcelona.
"We are in the FA Cup competition, and we reached the semi-finals in the Carabao Cup. Yeah, I think we understand that, when you lose two games in a row, the situation is not simple. But, maybe, we are increasing the difficulty of this team.
“After the summer? But... as you know very well, my contract expires in 2019. In my hand, there is the will. I know I have a contract. In my will, there is the will to stay and continue to work for this club. Yes.
“This is my opinion. At the same time, I have great respect for every opinion. If the club decides to send me away, I don't know when, it'll be because they're not happy with my work.
“This question is about the players? I think every team tries to keep their best players. Because, for sure, if they want to try and win, the most important thing is to have good players. Top players. Especially because, now, in England, there is a lot of competition here.”
Despite coming into the season as the Premier League champions, Conte had predicted early on that Chelsea were in for a "difficult season" due to the strength of the Manchester clubs. Chelsea also took on the increased physical burden of European football after having a year out of the Champions League last season.
Manchester City once again outspent Chelsea in the January transfer window and have a huge points lead on Conte's side. In fact, Chelsea have been outspent (in terms of net spend) by Man City since the 2012-13 season and Conte has spoken about how his side can compete with them in the coming seasons.
“I think that, in my opinion, a manager, a coach... you continue to work with a manager or coach not because of what he achieves in one season, but because you trust in him. Then you build something with him.
"But it doesn't mean you have to win something, because that's not simple. Not easy. Especially in England, it's not simple. But in my vision, you can win but, at the same time, the club might not be happy to stay with you.
"For this reason, it's right to send the coach away. At the same time, you can trust in a coach and his work and continue with him even if you don't win, and try and build something important. There are two ways. There is a stupid way and an intelligent way.
“I think the most important thing is to understand the situation and understand what your targets are. It's simple. For sure, when you start a season, every team... all these six top teams want to fight for something important, for the title.
"Then, sometimes it can happen, like it did for us last season. Other times you have to fight for a place in the Champions League, like this season. But to try and forecast is very difficult. You have to finish this season in the right way, too.”