Inconsistency is the word to define Chelsea’s season to this point, probably. Inconsistent results, inconsistent mentality, inconsistent tactics, inconsistent selections, inconsistent motivation, belief, spirit. A few stellar performances (Spurs, Atlético away), a few abhorrent ones, many others at some point between those two extremes.
We only have to look at the team’s play against Roma in the second-half on Tuesday versus the play of the team Sunday against Manchester United. The former is (or at least felt like) the worst Chelsea have played in half a decade. The latter was (or at least felt like) the best Chelsea have played all season, certainly at least in the Premier League.
What was the difference? Tactics and attitude. Conte talks every time about the latter, and is what he lead with today’s post-match comments as well.
“We played with great energy, with great passion and with great enthusiasm. It’s great for me, the players, the club, but above all it’s great for our fans, to breathe this energy, to breathe this passion, to breathe this enthusiasm.
“I saw a lot of positive things, not only in the tactical aspect but above all my players’ desire, their will to fight and help each other.
“When we play in this way it’s great. This was a massive game, and to win against Manchester United gives you more confidence, and gives you the right enthusiasm to understand that if we want, we can.”
Conte and several of the players talked about lacking belief against Roma, but on Sunday, even after the injustice of a perfectly good goal being ruled, Chelsea showed plenty of ambition, belief, and positive play. Outside of a few minutes at the start and a few minutes at the end, the visitors hardly threatened as the home side dominant in all phases.
The return of N’Golo Kanté was of course important, but so was the shift back to a three-man midfield to ensure Chelsea control of the most important area of the pitch.
“To have the possibility to play with three midfielders was very important. This season we are struggling a bit to find the best solution for this team. Last season we found great balance with the system, 3-4-2-1, but this season we changed many players and we have to find the best solution game by game.
“We showed good balance tonight, we created many chances to score, we could have been more clinical, but it’s okay. A good win for us.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
The finishing woes are a bit concerning, but they are likely to be temporary. What’s not so temporary is a winning habit, which we’ve not managed to establish so far this season. But this is now the third win in a row in the league, and that’s something we can definitely build from for the rest of the winter.