Week 1 and to Conte for the surprise result of the weekend.
The first sending-off is the “key moment of the game – to play the rest of the game with 10 men, and then 9 men, is not easy.”
The obvious next step would be to criticise the referee, but Conte is seldom obvious.
“I do not want to comment on the referee.”
Instead he reframes an argument, by redefining it – what the Ancient Greeks would call Syncrisis.
“But in the last 3 official games we finish with 10 or 9 men, I think I need to adapt a new system to play with 10 or 9 men to anticipate this situation.”
The joke may be weak, but the frame around this new argument is interesting.
By joining the seasons together, he can apply pressure to Chelsea’s next referee. A sending-off in the next game becomes a bigger decision than it would otherwise be.
Referees are not the only audience a manager can communicate with after the match.
With the transfer window still open, managers at this time of year can use their post-match interview to influence the transfer decisions still to be made.
Conte, however, turns down the opportunity to criticise the recruitment decisions,
“I think at this moment the focus is to continue to work very hard with these players, for the transfer market the club is trying to do its best. I am not worried, I am ready to fight with these players.”
“It is important for us to concentrate on our work and to be focused every day during the training session and do our work in the best way. No hiding places, no excuses.”
The words are fine, but the tone is surprisingly downbeat. This does not come across as the aggressive, confident Conte from last season and this is reflected in his choice of clothes.
In place of the sharp suits of last season, we have a shapeless, formless tracksuit.
It is a troubling start to the season.
One match in and Conte is communicating a separation between himself in the owners in tone and dress.
Conte may feel that – with a title-winning season behind him – a separation will hurt Chelsea more than it hurts himself.
Leadership communication lesson
Understanding the importance of tone and even dress, is a lesson many leaders need to learn. Words are important, but we communicate through emotion and visually. Consistency must be the aim for any leader. How you say it and how you are seen to say it, must align with your aim. For more formal communication opportunities – a speech for example – you need to both practice and seek feedback on these specific areas. Get this wrong and your speech will fail.