Michy Batshuayi grabbed a rather disproportionate amount of attention for a backup striker when Conte opted to leave him on the bench and start second-leading scorer Eden Hazard at center forward instead last time out.
Of course, lest we forget, Chelsea paid a fairly non-trivial amount for the 23-year-old Belgian international, beating out a length list of suitors for his signature including Spurs, and most of us assumed that he would get his chance with Diego Costa suspended on Boxing Day. The fact that Batshuayi only got on for the final few seconds of the game as a time-wasting substitute wasn’t necessarily viewed in a good light either. But there was an intense post-match hug between head coach and the spurned backup, followed up soon after by a positive tweet from Michy himself. All’s well then, right?
“Usually when I talk with my players I prefer to keep it a secret what is said in the conversation.”
“For Michy, I think that he's working very well, he's improving a lot, and I'm sure that, in the future, he will have his chance to play. He wants to stay, he wants to stay.”
“I repeat: he's a young player. We are talking about a player who is 23. He's starting his path in football. He has great talent, great potential, and I think it's very important for him as a footballer to complete this season (here). He wants to stay, and I'm happy for this.”
“It's important to adapt to this league in physical and tactical situations. We are working a lot with him and also the other players to improve this situation. For me, it's important to see great attitude and behaviour in each training session. That's the most important thing. The rest, I repeat, he will have his chance to play in the future.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Get West London
Michy’s made plenty of appearances this season already, but the vast majority of those have been just a few minutes long and have come at the ends of games with the result already decided. At the start of the season, he was often used as a goal-getting option off the bench, playing crucial roles in our wins against West Ham and Watford, and he’s started every single Cup game so far. Presumably, he will continue in these roles through the end of the season — FA Cup coming up next weekend! — as he learns and adapts to whatever it is that Conte wants him to learn and adapt to.
“It’s important now for Michy to be available against Stoke because if I need him he must be ready to play. Then we have another game against Tottenham and then the FA Cup match.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
(Or he goes out on loan, and we sign Fernando Llorente. But I’d much prefer the previous option, and hopefully that’s something that Conte was able to convince Michy of in their talks.)