While Chelsea have had a very settled starting eleven since switching to the 3-4-3 setup at the start of October, Antonio Conte has often talked about the tough decisions he has to make to choose the lineup that will give him the best chance of winning. Largely, those decisions have boiled down to picking either Pedro or Willian as the right inside forward and picking either Matić or Fàbregas as the other midfielder next to Kanté — the former preferred in both instances.
But against Swansea, it was Fàbregas who got the start, just his sixth all season in the league. As we expected, Conte confirmed after the match that the reason was basically to help unlock Swansea’s massed ranks.
“Swansea play very, very compact. Probably in this game it was difficult to find the space to play between the lines...”
“Against Swansea I decided to start with Cesc, but don't forget Matic is playing a fantastic championship, Kante the same. We must continue in this way. Our target is more important than a single player.”
Conte obviously believes in his own decisions, though he knows he’s not infallible and, as he says, his door is always open for players to talk to him about decisions.
“For me, it's always difficult to make these decisions. But I have to do this. Sometimes I make a mistake, but I try to do the best for the team because I want to win...”
“For this reason it's important to have a good conversation with all the players. To try always to be honest. I think that the right way is to be honest. I prefer to tell always a better truth than a good lie. When one player wants to have an explanation about my choices, my door is always open and the reply is always the same — I want to win and I try always, in every game, to make the best decision.”
Performances like the one that Cesc put in on Saturday do make everyone involved look pretty smart however.
“I'm very happy, for Cesc, but also Nemanja. When I called him to play off the bench, he played really well. N'Golo is playing fantastic. This is why we are top of the league — all my players are playing very, very well.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Twenty-six down, twelve to go. Onwards!