Over the past month or so, rival managers have been busy conceding this season’s title to Chelsea — or alternatively, putting pressure on Chelsea to not mess it up from such a strong position. “It’s Chelsea’s title to lose” has been a common refrain from the likes of Wenger and Guardiola. But having navigated a tricky away tie at Anfield, we must be extra vigilant. There is still a long ways to go, almost as long to the end of the season in fact than it’s been since the season-defining formation shift at Chelsea.
That shift came on the heels of a shocking 3-0 loss to Arsenal, but there was no talk of petty revenge from the Chelsea boss in Friday’s press conference, only of hard work and of paying attention and all the usual Conte-isms.
“I repeat: if someone thinks the league is finished, I’m not so sure. I want to have this right tension. In the past I fought to win the title, and I know we must pay great attention.”
“There are 15 games to play and there are a lot of great teams behind us. I like to repeat to my players: it’s more important to look at ourselves than to look at the others.”
“It is important to keep the antenna very high! I have a bit of experience in football as a player and manager. I want to keep our concentration very high. Me, my players, the club, the fans. Anything can happen, above all if we don’t show great concentration.”
Chelsea have won 15 of the 17 league games since the Arsenal defeat -- and have been absolutely perfect 10-for-10 (with just 4 goals conceded) at the Bridge as well — but the pain of that 3-0 remains fresh in Conte’s mind and no doubt serves as motivation for much of the squad as well.
“This defeat seems far away, but it’s important to remember the defeat against Arsenal. It was a bad defeat, 3-0 in the first half. In my mind this defeat is always present. I hope also it is in the mind of my players because tomorrow this game will be very difficult.”
“A lot of things have changed now. For sure we are a team, we want to have a good game against Arsenal and try to win.”
“At this moment it’s very important to exploit this momentum. We are in good shape; we are playing good football with intensity. Now we have a good opportunity to show this. We play at home, we have our fans to push us a lot, but for sure we must pay great attention.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
After this game, Chelsea do not face another top six opposition for two months, with the next six games all against teams currently ninth or lower. Chelsea have dropped just two points all season to teams outside the top six.
Managing from the front, with such a big lead can be tricky (it’s akin to the whole “two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead” fallacy), but so far, there’s no sign of Conte and Chelsea not being up to the task. If we can maintain concentration and “pay great attention”, the title is ours.