One of the themes of Conte’s management style from day one has been the careful, cautious approach to injuries — outside of absolute dire emergencies like Bakayoko against Spurs — which has translated into drawn-out (and often vague) recovery timeframes for the likes of Eden Hazard, Álvaro Morata, Danny Drinkwater, and most recently, N’Golo Kanté. It’s all for the best of course, even if it may be frustrating at times.
Two years ago, during the season that shall not be talked about, we saw just how much even minor nagging injuries could affect Eden Hazard’s game, while even now, as Conte reminded in his post-match press conference, Morata is still likely feeling the effects of his hamstring problem from a few weeks ago from which he seemed to make a quicker than originally expected recovery.
“I am happy for his commitment, his desire and his will to fight. For sure he can do better but don’t forget Morata is recovering from a muscular problem. When you have this type of problem you need a bit of time to come back in the best physical condition. I‘m very happy with his performance, a lot of the time he recovered a very important ball in transition.”
But the one player we’re all keeping an eye on is N’Golo Kanté, without whom Chelsea are a very different and much less stable side. Kanté’s been out since the first week of October and while Conte’s been hinting at a return soon, he wasn’t quite ready to confirm one for Tuesday’s game in Rome.
“I hope so. He could be ready [for the game against AS Roma]. I know very well the importance of this player. I want to be sure he is ready. I hope to have him in this game, but I prefer to not take this type of risk. If he is ready, he plays.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
With all other Chelsea midfielders available, thus opening up multiple tactical variations for the 3-4-3 and the 3-5-2, it’s probably best to not push Kanté. He will be needed for next Sunday’s game against Manchester United above all else.