Antonio Conte has used the League Cup (Carabao Cup, if you will) to help rest and rotate his overstretched and overworked squad from the very first round Chelsea have been involved in all the way through Wednesday’s quarterfinal win.
The eight changes he made for last night’s match against Bournemouth were the fewest yet, but still saw starts given to Ethan Ampadu and Kenedy, while Michy Batshuayi, Danny Drinkwater, and Wilfredo Caballero all rotated in for overdue minutes. After the game, Conte hailed the achievements of his backups, even if they needed a bit of intervention from the likes of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata to get the job done in the end.
“The most important thing is that we are in the semi-finals. Last season we were eliminated in the fourth round by West Ham. This season we must be happy with this achievement and to reach the semi-final of one of the two cups in England. It’s great for us, especially because we reached the semi-final with a lot of rotations.
“From the first game against Nottingham Forest I made a lot of rotations, and for this reason I am very happy. I had good responses from my players. In this cup they showed they are very professional. I hope this game also improves the physical condition especially for the players who had injuries and who are not playing with regularity. It means we are working very well.
“To reach the semi-finals is a remarkable achievement for us. We want to reach Wembley and play the final, but we know the other teams want the same.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
It wasn’t the prettiest game ever from Chelsea, especially in the second half, but they got the job done (unlike, say, Manchester United), and at the end of the day, especially in a cup competition, that’s all that matters.
Next up will be Arsenal in the two-legged semifinal (in mid- and late-January), who have proven to be a bit of bogey team for Conte starting with that famous 3-0 defeat that resulted in the introduction of the 3-4-3, through last year’s FA Cup final and this season’s curtain-raiser in the Community Shield. The Chelsea head coach will undoubtedly be hoping for a similar performance as in the one win he has engineered against the Gunners, through whether Eden Hazard plays from the start or Conte continues his strict rotation policy will remains to be seen.