Just about everybody was expecting Michy Batshuayi to start for Chelsea against AFC Bournemouth, so it came as a rather big surprise that Conte chose to go without “a real forward”. Instead of Batshuayi starting for the suspended Diego Costa, Chelsea lined up with all three inside forwards in the lineup, Eden Hazard as the nominal center forward with Pedro and Willian flanking him. It was fairly fluid of course, but it was also a different look than the usual setup of the 3-4-3.
“This is the first time we played without a real forward, we tried this in training and I think for us at the moment this situation is the best, but I don’t forget Michy [Batshuayi] because he is a young player with great talent.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Evening Standard
Conte talked repeatedly ahead of the game about how Michy needed time to adapt and urged patience with the youngster with words that were perhaps aimed as much at him as the fans and media. In hindsight, it was obvious that Michy wasn’t going to play. Not yet anyway. In a familiar rhetoric from Conte, Batshuayi just needs to keep working hard and improve.
Conte: "I think Michy Batshuayi is a really good player, but he is young. I try to make the best decision for the team."— Dan Levene (@danlevene) December 26, 2016
Conte: "We have to continue to work with (Michy) every day to try and improve him, and get him in the best position to help us."— Dan Levene (@danlevene) December 26, 2016
However, if you’re thinking loan, here’s Conte to dissuade you from any such notion.
Conte says he would not be prepared to let Michy Batshuayi go on loan, were he to ask.— Dan Levene (@danlevene) December 26, 2016
So, time to work, time to improve, and hopefully get some minutes in the FA Cup in a couple weeks. Chin up, young’n.