Nemanja Matic has played every minute of every single match so far this season, and while that should not be all that surprising given that he was our Player of the Year in 2013-14 (despite only joining in January), he looked one foot out the door just three months ago after a rather subpar 2015-16 season. But Conte made a pretty big deal in public about keeping him in the summer and has followed through on that with plenty of playing time and praise to (re-)instill the long lost confidence of the big Spiderbeasty.
Matic has repaid that faith with improved performances, forming a fairly solid trio with new signing N'Golo Kanté and the repurposed Oscar. He clearly has plenty of respect for Conte, once a strong combative midfielder himself.
"If someone like him said that it means something. He is a great manager. You can see that from his results with Juventus and the great job he did with Italy. I want to use that to help me. I want to work with him to improve."
"I hope he, his staff and all my teammates are happy with how I am working here because I really give my best every day and try to do my job to the best of my ability."
For the last couple seasons, Matić has been the more defensive half of the Chelsea midfield. With a large part of that responsibility now shouldered by Kanté (and Oscar as well), Matić has seen his role shift into a slightly more attacking one.
"If you see our games I think the midfield has played well. We fight for each other, and also if you see the last game against Leicester we did a good job."
"My role is more or less the same as before, but the only thing is now I can play maybe a little bit more offensively, maybe 10 per cent more than last season. I still have a difficult job and I have to run a lot."
"When we defend I have to be close to Kante to help him and the defensive line, and when we attack I have more freedom than him to go forward, like for the goal against Liverpool. In that moment we were playing with two in midfield because we were losing. I took a little risk, Eden gave me a good ball between the lines and I used it well. I can attack sometimes!"
Cesc Fàbregas recently talked about the various roles in midfield as well and what Conte wants each player to improve upon. We could certainly use a few more incisive runs like that one against Liverpool from Matić, especially if Conte continues to hold Fàbregas in reserve.
"We have a new coach and we are still trying to do the things that he wants us to do. We want to improve more and we can improve, as he has said to us a few times. He sees that every day."
-Nemanja Matić; source: Chelsea FC
Work, fight, improve. Oh, and win.