Antonio Conte has conceded it will be very difficult for Chelsea to retain their Premier League crown in 2017-18 without further signings, reiterating that the club's hierarchy are fully aware of his transfer priorities.
Chelsea have added four new faces to their title-winning group so far this summer at a cost of more than £120m ($156m), with Willy Caballero, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata all arriving at Stamford Bridge. However, the sale of Nemanja Matic coupled with the departures of several fringe players and usual raft of loan exits have left Conte's squad looking a little thin and potentially vulnerable to injuries ahead of a return to the Champions League.
The Telegraph reported on Tuesday (8 July) that Conte, whose frustration with a lack of progress in the market has been all too evident over recent weeks and appeared to intensify following the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal at Wembley, had been reassured that Chelsea would recruit three more players before the window closes on 31 August.
Defenders Serge Aurier, Alex Sandro and Virgil van Dijk were all listed as prominent targets, along with midfield quartet Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Antonio Candreva.
Speaking to Sky Sports three days before Chelsea's Premier League opener against Burnley, Conte said: "Yeah, for sure [it will be hard to win the league again without more new players]. For sure. I repeat: this league is not easy. It's not easy and you have to fight against at least five other teams. This league is different to other countries, where you find two teams to fight for the title. Here you have six teams, [that are] very strong and you must be prepared to fight very hard."
Asked how many more additions Chelsea need to be competitive, the Italian, who was not eager to tread over old ground with regards to striker outcast Diego Costa, replied: "I speak about this many times and I think the most important thing is my club knows very well which are our priorities. I hope to try to work to improve our squad, to improve our quality and then be ready to fight for this season.
"The transfer market is not finished."
Matic a "great loss"
Conte - along with newly-appointed captain Gary Cahill - also rued the loss of Matic, who was permitted to reunite with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at Manchester United last week in a deal reported to be worth £40m.
"Matic knows very well what I think about him," he said. "The importance for me about this player, who is a really good player, a top player, very important for our team, but sometimes you must accept this crazy transfer market.
"And sometimes you must accept different decisions. But he is a great loss for us."