Chelsea's three-match unbeaten run came to a disappointing end at West Ham on Wednesday night, as early goals in both halves from the hosts were enough to see off the disjointed, substandard, unlucky boys in Blue. West Ham took the lead just as the clock rolled past 10 minutes and doubled it less than three minutes into the second half. It was that second goal that was especially damaging.
"I think we didn't expect the second goal so early and that changed our plan. Then we tried to change the situation by putting on fresh players. We created many chances to score and only did it at the end of the match."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Chelsea began the day with three Academy graduates in the starting lineup (part of a significant seven changes from the weekend), including captain John Terry, returning after a long absence and showing plenty of rust, and two youngsters, Ola Aina (making his second start) and Nathaniel Chalobah (making his first) who acquitted themselves a fair bit better. Another young player, Michy Batshuayi started at center forward, though he, like Terry, also had a day to forget.
In the end of course it's win together, lose together, and the manager chose to concentrate on the positives.
"I think that this cup was very important to check the development of our young players. We have good young players and they need to play. For this reason I'm disappointed that we can't play in this competition in the future."
"They played a good game, with good intensity and good concentration. It's normal that when you lose you see only bad things, but I think that tonight I found a lot of positive things in this game."
"Usually you learn more after a defeat than a win. We must continue to work but I'm optimistic, because I saw the right spirit and this is very important. You can lose or win, but you want to see always the right spirit. If there is the right spirit you can work in the future."
"Tomorrow we start to work for the game on Sunday because we know it will be very tough against Southampton. They are in a good moment, but I'm sure that with work we can improve a lot and continue in our right way."
-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN
Conte may have taken off the three youngest players to try to affect the game with the hit squad of Costa, Hazard, and Pedro, but it sounds like he hasn't lost faith in the kids just yet. Unfortunately, and this is the disappointing part, we now have to wait until January and the FA Cup to be able to rotate the squad for a secondary competition.
In more immediate matters, it's Southampton on Sunday at St. Mary's, with the Saints on a twelve-match unbeaten run at home in all competitions. In fact, they have lost just two games at home since Christmas. The 3-4-3 with the first-choice lineup ran riot against both Leicester and Manchester United, but those were both home games.
"The performance for me was good. We knew that these types of games are very difficult against a strong team like West Ham"
"We played a good game with good intensity, and we created many chances to score goals. I saw a good spirit in my players because until the end they tried to change the result."
"We created many chances but today we were a bit unlucky in this aspect. It's a pity that we can't play in this competition in the future."
-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN
We'll need all the spirit and concentration and intensity and maybe that bit of luck, too, which we saved up in this one, on Sunday.