Sixteen games into the season, we've become fairly familiar with Antonio Conte's pre- and post-match comments. Win or lose, the emphasis is always on improving, on working hard, and staying focused. Even after ten straight wins.
Especially after ten straight wins!
Conte speaks about other teams finding ways of disrupting Chelsea's playing system, which means there is need for more work. #SUNCHE— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 14, 2016
Chelsea keep finding ways to win, whether that's against a parked bus or a heavy press. The ridiculously impressive 5-0 win over Everton always promised to be a high-water mark for the 3-4-3 (sort of like the 5-0 against Swansea in 2014-15); since then, the wins have come less easily.
Teams have started to adjust to and figure out the new system. Boro, Spurs, and City all tried to press and pressure their way to victory, West Brom and Sunderland tried to defend and muscle their way to a non-loss. Through skill, perseverance, and some luck, Chelsea have managed to win all five anyway. The streak could thus conceivably run on for a while longer, or it could conceivably end on Saturday away to Crystal Palace. It sounds like Conte does not want to risk the latter, and wants to ensure the former. How will we ensure the former?
Through hard work and further improvement of course. (And maybe a small tweak or two?)
"I am seeing that now, if you compare with when we started playing 3-4-3, many teams try to disrupt our play and our football, and try to avoid us developing our football. For this reason, it's important to work more and increase our confidence and knowledge of this system. But it's good to see the opponent change their system to block you."
Wednesday's win could've been a fair bit more comfortable had Chelsea finished off a few more chances, so maybe we'll just do a couple extra rounds of shooting practice?
"We created many chances to score the second goal and kill the game. At the end, Sunderland had a great chance to draw. Only a great save from Thibaut allowed us to win."
"But to win 10 games in a row is not easy and I am pleased for my players. It's fantastic, above all in this league when you have to fight in every game until the end to take the three points. They deserve this for their commitment and work-rate every day."
"Now we have to continue as in three days we have another tough game against Crystal Palace. I hope we recover very well after this battle and to arrive at Christmas in an incredible position in the table."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
With a six-point lead at the top of the table, Chelsea are guaranteed to be Premier League leaders at Christmas for the fifth time since 2004-05. We ended up winning the title each of the previous four times, as did all other teams who have been top since 2009-10, save for Liverpool in 2013-14 (The Slip!).