Tiemoué Bakayoko’s inconsistent start to his Chelsea career has been well documented, but on Tuesday night, he seemingly put all that noise behind him, and got down to the business of being excellent on the pitch. No silly turnovers, lazy passes, lazier fouls, lack of movement, or any of those negative things that had at times stood out from the £40m summer signing’s game so far.
Instead, as Conte elucidated after the game, Bakayoko was solid, worked hard, made the right decisions, and most importantly, did what the coach asked of him to do.
“Bakayoko played a really good game. I am very happy for him. We are talking about a player who is 23 years old. He is adapting himself to our idea of football.
“Tonight I saw the best performance from Baka. I started to see what I ask, what I want: to find the right pass between the lines, to change sides, and to be solid and focused for the whole game.
“I am very pleased for him, and this type of performance will improve his confidence. I repeat: I am not worried about Baka. He is a young player, and now he is starting to understand he is in a club like Chelsea, a great club. I am very happy because he showed me he has the right desire and will to improve himself and try to be better.
“If I didn’t trust him, he doesn’t start tonight in an important game after a defeat and a lot of problems. To start with him shows I trust him.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Don’t think anyone was questioning Conte’s trust in Bakayoko — if anything, the questions were about the continuing trust in light of a few poor performances — but the words about Bakayoko’s willingness to work hard and improve are perhaps the most telling and most important. Above all, those are the two qualities that Conte looks for in players; if Bakayoko applies himself in such a manner, surely he will settle into a nice long and successful career at the club.