Conte defends Chelsea amid surprise Carroll & Crouch links

Although he has reportedly been frustrated by Chelsea's transfer activity, Antonio Conte defended the club's plans.

Antonio Conte has backed Chelsea's transfer policy, despite a seemingly haphazard search for a striker reportedly doing little to quell the Italian's frustrations at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have signed one player, Ross Barkley in a £15million deal from Everton, so far this month, while Roma duo Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmieri have been linked.

The Blues missed out on former striker Romelu Lukaku, as well as Juventus left-back Alex Sandro and attacker Fernando Llorente, while allowing midfielder Nemanja Matic to join top-four rivals Manchester United, in the previous transfer window.

Dzeko is not the only striker to be linked to the Blues although reported interest in Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch has raised eyebrows. However, Conte insists he is happy with the club's dealings.

"I think that, at the start of the season, the club took the best decision for every player," Conte told reporters ahead of Saturday's trip to Brighton and Hove Albion as Chelsea look to snap a five-game winless run in all competitions.

"For example, for [Ruben] Loftus-Cheek, to give him the opportunity to play a season with regularity. The same for [Kurt] Zouma and Tammy Abraham.

"In this moment, about Ross Barkley, I think the club took a good opportunity to buy an important player, an important English player, and not spend a lot of money. Ross' evaluation is more than £15million. But, before the season, you try to make the best decision for every single player.

"We have a clear example in the team: [Andreas] Christensen, for two seasons, played on loan with [Borussia] Monchengladbach, and now he's playing every game with us. It doesn't change the club's plan."

Conte won the Premier League in his first season in English football but this time out Chelsea have been unable to keep up with runaway leaders City, who suffered a first domestic defeat of the season at Liverpool last week but have a 12-point cushion in top spot.

And the Italian, a three-time Serie A winner while in charge of Juventus, believes the Premier League is more competitive than some of the other top divisions across Europe, with Chelsea three points clear of Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification.

"In every sport you have to fight if you want to reach great achievements," Conte added. "I think in England, it's very difficult to win the title. More than in other countries.

"Because you start the season with six top teams trying to win the title. This is the only country where you can find this type of situation. At the same time, it's very difficult to fight and find a place in the top four.

"Last season, Manchester United and Arsenal stayed out. Two seasons ago, Liverpool were out and Chelsea finished 10th. They were out. But we must be ready, we must be ready to fight for a place in the top four.

"It won't be easy because every team wants to reach this target. This target is very prestigious for every team because this competition, the Champions League, is the biggest in the world for clubs."