Under-pressure Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is paying the price for the club's flawed transfer strategy last summer, former Blues midfielder Ray Wilkins has said.

Chelsea were thrashed 4-1 by Watford at Vicarage Road on 5 February – the club's second successive defeat by a three-goal margin after the 3-0 defeat against Bournemouth.

Conte's relationship with Blues owner Roman Abramovich has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, amid reports the Russian oligarch was unhappy at the manager's outspoken comments regarding the club's transfer strategy.

Wilkins said he could not understood why Chelsea's board refused to give the manager greater control over transfers and argued that the current squad is weaker than the one that won the league last season.

"If you're paying a man as much as Chelsea are paying Conte, his knowledge is far superior to someone like [former technical director] Michael Emenalo, who they brought in to do that job," the former midfielder told talkSPORT.

"The manager's knowledge is far superior. He knows the players he wants to bring in.

"The squad is weaker this season than the one that won the league last year. No Diego Costa, no Nemanja Matic – it's been a massive blow to Conte."

Michael Emenalo
Michael Emenalo left his role as Chelsea's technical director in November Getty

Wilkins added that Chelsea should have kept hold of Costa and Matic instead of replacing the duo with less experienced players.

"I believe it was Michael who made the changes," he said. "To actually swap Matic with [Tiemoue] Bakayoko?

"They should have brought in [Alvaro] Morata to play alongside Costa and they should have signed Bakayoko just to play every now and again.

"He is 23 years of age and he came in from the French league, which is a bit of a doddle."

Conte won the Premier League title last season with Chelsea, but the Blues are currently 19 points behind league leaders Manchester City. The Italian insisted last week that he intended to see out the remaining 18 months on his contract at Stamford Bridge.