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Conte puts on a brave face, explains Willian decision, as Manchester City outplay Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

True to form, Antonio Conte expressed nothing but pride and confidence in his players despite the disappointing result and rather poor performance against Manchester City on Saturday.

“For sure there is disappointment about the result but at the same time I’m pleased with the commitment of my players, we gave everything. You can win or lose, but the most important thing is to see your players giving everything and today that happened.”

While Conte rarely, if ever, criticizes his players in public (especially individually) — unlike other coaches who have no qualms about throwing players under the bus despite claiming otherwise — this could also be seen as implicit acknowledgement that Conte himself got things wrong today with his approach, his formation, and his substitutions.

When asked about his tactical decisions, the Chelsea head coach turns out to have had the right ideas in terms of approach, but not so much in executing on that approach.

“We played against a really good team, we created chances to score but we didn’t take them. Man City created chances and did well to score. In this type of game it’s very important to score first but great compliments to City.”

“When you play against the type of team who likes to have possession, you have to consider two tactical aspects. You go very high, press and play with great intensity for the whole game, or you must be disciplined to close the space and exploit space in behind their defenders.”

Exploiting City’s high line and aggresion was certainly the right idea, but doing so with a 3-5-2 with just Morata up top was the wrong way to do that. We needed Pedro from the start, and when Morata went off injured, we needed anybody but Willian, who is not a direct runner or someone who will approximate a center forward. It remains baffling that Conte thought Willian was the right call there, or that we needed to approach the game with essentially the same personnel as the game against Atletico, who are the polar opposites of City.

Right ideas, wrong calls. Especially in hindsight, but we could see this before the game and during it as well.

No one will get it right 100 per cent of the time, and Conte does get it right more often than not and more often that most, but he did not get it right today. And that’s frustrating, to say the least.

So it’s time to regroup, take two weeks to refocus and maybe tweak things, and then get back to the business of the top four and a title-challenge.

“I think we have to look at ourselves and try to put everything into every game. We did that today. Damage or no damage, we have to go game by game, do our best and then we’ll see at the end of the season how we finish the league. When I see my players have given everything we must be pleased despite the bad result.

“You have to consider that in seven games we’ve played Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City and Everton. Our start wasn’t so easy. I think we have the points we deserve.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

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