One of Antonio Conte’s core values as a football coach is to always improve. Hard work and commitment are of course important, but without the overriding goal to improve each and every single day, they would be a bit pointless.
And so, after Monday night’s 2-1 win over West Ham — a scoreline that is not exactly an accurate reflection of Chelsea’s control of proceedings for much of the game — Conte identified the one area that needs the biggest improvement still.
“We created more chances and we must be more clinical to finish the game. When you stay at 1-0 or 2-0 in England, anything can happen. You can see if West Ham scored in the 85th minute and not the 92nd we would be in trouble. For this reason, we have to be more clinical, and when we create the chances to score, we must score, score, score.”
Work, work, work. Fight, fight, fight. Score, score, score.
Fortunately Chelsea did score the all-important second goal in the second half to ease the nerves stemming from a somewhat subpar first-half — though, in fairness, West Ham came out very strongly from the gates and bombarded Courtois’s area with a seemingly never-ending barrage of crosses.
While Chelsea failed to add to the scoreline after the 49th minute, the commitment and the concentration was perfect almost all the way to the end. The unfortunate last blip aside, which allowed Manuel Lanzini to score a consolation, it was a strong and important performance from the Blues.
“We played good football, and we created chances to score other goals. It’s a pity to give away a second clean sheet at the end of the game, the second after Arsenal - we must work a bit on this aspect.”
“But it’s not easy to play after your opponents have played and won, and you know if you drop points you give them hope to chase you. We played with pressure, and our answer was good.”
“We didn’t concede many chances. Our central defenders played very well against the long ball for Carroll, we defended very well, good and compact. It was a really tough game. I’m pleased with the commitment and mentality of my players. They were very focused. They showed me great will to win the game, and also to suffer in the first part of the first half.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Azpilicueta & Co did a fine job of limiting Andy Carroll by keeping him in non-dangerous areas and winning important headers inside the box. This was not only going to be the obvious method of attack for West Ham, but also Chelsea’s obvious weakness, so getting this part of the game right was always going to be most crucial. We did, and so the three points are coming back with us to Stamford Bridge.
Ten point lead restored at the top — could be down to eight in a couple days as Manchester City catch up with their game-in-hand. Eleven games to go. It’s not over, but we’re getting there.