Antonio Conte’s precarious position at Chelsea “is the nature of the beast” under owner Roman Abramovich, says former midfielder Andy Townsend.
Chelsea suffered a second consecutive league loss at Watford on Monday and are fourth, 19 points off the pace.
Conte guided the Blues to the title in his debut season but his future has repeatedly been questioned this term.
BBC Sport understands being in the top four, Champions League and FA Cup means Conte will not be sacked imminently.
Furthermore, his position was not discussed following the Watford defeat, after which the Italian gave his players three days off.
- 5 live’s Football Daily: Isolated Conte a shadow of his former self
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- Match report: Watford score three late goals to stun Chelsea
Townsend said the way things are done at Chelsea means “we are starting to think about a manager on the brink”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live, he added: “I don’t think he should be and I honestly don’t think the players want to see the back of him.
“It does not seem five minutes ago that they seemed united and the spirit was unbreakable between manager, owner and players and everything was rosy in the garden.”
After the Blues’ second straight three-goal defeat, the manager said “the club have to take another decision” if they think he is not doing a good enough job.
Conte has received the backing of captain Gary Cahill and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who said “we believe in him and we believe in our team” after the 4-1 defeat by Watford.
Monday’s defeat followed a 3-0 home loss to Bournemouth, to leave Chelsea with just two wins in 10 games this year.
“Clearly there is something wrong and something going on in the corridors of power that the manager does not like, but if you go to war with Abramovich, you lose, there is only one winner,” said Townsend.
“I think Antonio Conte is a diligent manager and I think he has shown he can get the best out of good players, and I believe he is the right man to continue at that club.”
‘In this battle, there is only one winner’
Former Juventus and Italy manager Conte has 18 months remaining on his contract, but prior to the defeat by Watford asked the club for “a statement to support against this speculation”.
The 48-year-old also hinted he was open to talks over a new deal while “giving all of myself for this club”.
He was backed in the transfer window with the deadline day signing of French striker Olivier Giroud in an £18m deal from Arsenal, but is reported to be disappointed at the size of the squad at his disposal.
Chelsea play Championship side Hull in the fifth round of the FA Cup next weekend, after the visit of West Brom in the league on Monday. They then face Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League before travelling to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live, former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton said the club “have a decision to make” about whether they spend the money to match Manchester United and Manchester City.
“They are on the brink,” he said. “I think it looks like Conte will go.
“In this relationship battle there is only one winner, and he is calling for backing from the board, but I don’t think he is going to get it.”
Alex Churchill – Chelsea Supporters Club – speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live Drive
I think a lot of Chelsea fans are confused, because we really like him, we love what he did last season and he fitted in so well. But he has just gone crazy in the last few months and I just think there is an overwhelming sense of we just wish he would shut up and we wish he would stop moaning and complaining in public and get on with the job.
I worry now that the situation is just too far gone for him to come back from it. I would just like him to wake up tomorrow and be the Antonio Conte he was last season.
The most frustrating thing is he seems to have brought so much of this situation down on himself, with the public speaking and the complaining. I just think for eight million a year you want some professionalism, I don’t want to see this in public, I want them to get their act together in the board room and sort it out with him.
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