Diego Costa has dominated the headlines over the past couple days, despite having zero involvement in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Leicester City that guarantees at least a five-point lead at the top of the table for the Blues for yet another week. That’s just how things go in the narrative-hungry world of 24-7 football media and coverage, I suppose.
Fortunately, while addressing the Costa nonsense as clearly as he possibly could under the circumstances, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte also made sure to focus on the players who did play on Saturday and who did really well against the defending champions, especially in the second half.
“Today I can’t be concerned about this because today my players showed me a great performance, great team spirit.”
“[Talking only about Costa] is a lack of respect for the other players for our performance. We start to think, ‘If an offer arrives’ [but] for me I don’t like to answer this type of question – if, if... Now there is this victory and we must enjoy it.”
There was plenty of pressure on Chelsea despite the big lead at the top of the table following defeat at Spurs last time out as well as all the Costa shenanigans. The early Alonso goal certainly helped, but the response of the players was admirable, in general, as well. Plenty of team spirit on display, too, with the post-match and all the goal celebrations.
“We started this game with great pressure after Tottenham’s victory and Arsenal’s victory and we had to show good experience to manage this situation because we’ve just started the second part of the season and in every game it will be important to take points.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Independent
Three points on offer today, three points gained. Just as the doctor ordered. And three goals for good measure, including a brace for Marcos Alonso, which obviously pleased the boss.
“Marcos is playing very well but not just today. Today he had a great performance and helped the team a lot but I am pleased for all my players.”
-Antonio Conte; source: BT Sport via Sun
Without Costa and with Batshuayi only on the bench, Chelsea went “small” up top once again, perhaps in a bid to exploit the big and slow back three of Leicester with smart movement and all the usual flicks and tricks we’ve come to expect from Hazard & Co. The plan wasn’t too impressive at first, but eventually it bore fruit as Chelsea dominated the second half. Ranieri’s tactical switch to a four-man setup only made things worse for them.
“It’s important to have another plan in your mind. To play without a number nine is another solution. We showed against Bournemouth and today, we played without a number nine and won 3-0, 3-0.”
“It’s important to always play as a team and to have different solutions is important for me and the team. Sometimes to change your plan is important.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
It’s nice to have a plan B, or a plan C, which seems to be the 3-5-2 with Fabregas in the middle, or a plan XYZ, but Costa is crucial to plan A and plan A is probably crucial for the rest of the season. That said, this post isn’t about Costa at all, so well done everyone else and thanks for getting the new winning streak started.