"At the start of the season, it's simple to tell that in this league probably six top teams should fight for the title", Conte said. A player who racked up 35 league appearances in Chelsea's title charge now stands as a proof that there is something rotten at Stamford Bridge.
So much for building from a position of strength.
Conte kept his counsel on Chelsea's transfer business, with the summer window open until Aug 31.
Frank Lampard has revealed that he was "surprised" by Chelsea's decision to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United and added that Tiemoue Bakayoko now has a "responsibility" to show that he can match the Serb's unheralded contribution at the heart of the Blues midfield.
"But Chelsea have signed Bakayoko, who made a great season at Monaco, to reinforce our team".
Have they had a disappointing summer transfer-wise?Conte clearly wanted his squad in better shape at this stage, especially considering City and United - potentially Chelsea's biggest challengers this season - have been more decisive in the transfer market. "We solved a lot in this summer, and for this reason it's very important to try to improve our squad because we have one more competition".
Asked who are Chelsea's main rivals for the trophy, Willian said: "I think all of them are rivals in the battle for the title". It was the 2015-16 season and the team finished embarrassingly in 10th place, with coach Jose Mourinho fired before Christmas.
"Matic knows very well what I think about him".
Things are more comfortable on the personal front for Conte, who recently signed a new, improved contract and will have his family - wife Elisabetta and daughter Vittoria - living with him in London this season.
CHELSEA CAPTAIN GARY Cahill admits the Premier League champions will miss the ostracised Diego Costa this season. Alvaro Morata is good but not the same quality that Costa has. The Spain striker is even likely to start on the bench against Burnley, with Michy Batshuayi starting. And I think he's concerned - they're going to lose Costa, they've lost Matic. It depends on the club, whether they follow him or not. On the other end of the spectrum, it was thanks to the Serbian's unintentional assist to Lukaku after his long-range effort got parried by Keylor Navas that Manchester United managed to score their only goal of the night. Of course, the battle for the title is always against five or six teams, but Premier League is a very hard championship because you can not predict any result.