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Conte has no regrets about Chelsea tactical approach against Manchester City

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Stats look bad. But the plan was sound, insists Conte

Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It’s not as if many people thought Chelsea were going to win on Sunday at Manchester City. They’re rampant. We’re manifestly not.

When Kante stayed on the team bus, curled up into a ball with an illness, hopes sank even further.

But still, the stats are pretty dismal.

  • First time in 14 years that Chelsea have lost four consecutive away matches
  • Zero shots on goal
  • Manchester City completed the most passes in a Premier League match since 2003-04.
  • The subs were ineffective
  • Thibaut Courtois was a leading passer

But if you expected Antonio Conte to apologize for sitting back, absorbing pressure and not forcing the issue with City, he has another think coming for you.

(BTW, the official stats show no shots on goal for Chelsea.)

That was in the tunnel interview. In the full press conference, Conte stuck to his line.

With his midfield options reduced to two — Danny Drinkwater and Cesc Fabregas — it’s hardly surprising that Conte decided they needed all they help they could get to contain City’s league-leading bunch of goal scorers.

In a sense, his plan worked.

One, because the central midfield didn’t make either of the two mistakes which led to City’s goal. Those fell to Andreas Christensen, who’s having a very bad spell and made his third big error in the last three mega-matches, and a temporarily oblivious Marcos Alonso.

And two, because City didn’t Arsenalize (new word) us.

And so despite the loss, despite staying five points outside the top four, despite not mounting a serious threat on their goal, Conte feels like the team did the best they could under the circumstances.

There’s concern over how Conte used his bench but he said that with Hazard, Pedro and Willian already on the pitch, he felt like he had his best attackers already playing. He bemoaned that when he finally did bring on Giroud (and at the last gasp, Morata), they were ineffective.

He said he delayed the Morata-for-Hazard sub as long as he could because he hoped Hazard might create something special. That’s unlikely to quiet the criticism, but he’s the one who’s paid to make those decisions.

So, not a happy day overall.

Is there a silver lining to this cloud? Well, in our remaining nine league matches we only play two teams currently in the top four, Tottenham and Liverpool. That suggests we can make up ground by beating the teams we ought to beat in the other seven. And not that it matters, but we haven’t actually lost the crown yet. City need one more win to mathematically rule Chelsea out.

Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

There is one tiny little spark of hope for that next mega-match on the schedule, Barcelona away. Iniesta went off with a hamstring today and is a doubt for the second leg of the Champions League tie.

Small mercies, as they say.