Going into Saturday’s match, Swansea had won four and drawn one of their last five in the comfy (if wet) confines of Liberty Stadium. But overall they’ve been horrid, dropping twelve points out of a possible fifteen in their last five league matches.
So which Swansea would show up? Both, as it turns out. Terribad in the first half, but putting Chelsea’s defenders under ever-increasing pressure in the second. Antonio Conte said he wasn’t surprised they put it to Chelsea.
“Tough game, but we knew this. Yesterday in the press conference I said this. Our expectation to have a tough game against a team that is fighting against relegation.
“In the last five games Swansea won four games and drew one at home. But I think that for us good win, we got three points which for us is very important to keep the hope alive to take a place in the Champions League. I think that Swansea played a good game - especially in the second half when they tried to push at us.”
The win puts a little more pressure on Tottenham Hotspur. Back in 2016 they hilariously folded when they were trying to challenge Leicester for the Premier League title. Now their lead over us is down to two, as they won’t play until Monday (against woeful Watford.) Conte was asked if they could collapse again.
“For sure the situation is not in our hands. But the only way to put a bit of pressure to Tottenham is to get three points in every game.
“It won’t be easy and we know that they will play against Watford on Monday, as you know very well the football is not simple to win the game especially in this league. But for sure, the situation is not in our hands in this moment.”
Two streaks were on the line at kickoff. The first was Chelsea’s late-season run of form, three wins in a row. Now it’s four. The other streak was a scoring one — Chelsea had netted seven times in that stretch. After scoring only one goal in Wales when a second could have made the late going a lot easier, Conte was asked about our problems in front of goal this season.
“Our top scorer has scored only 12 goals [in the Premier League.] If your best scorer scores only 12 goals it is very difficult to fight for something important in the season. This is the reality, the stats speak very well.”
Conte didn’t have an opinion on Jordan Ayew’s blatant assault on Gary Cahill.
“No, I must be honest my focus was on seeing my team because it happened with 30 seconds to go and I didn’t see what happened or what type of clash happened on the pitch.”
That might have been a good thing, made him less likely to say something inflammatory about John Moss’ performance (although Conte has been consistently good about not haranguing officials since he’s been in England — and Wales.)
Nor did he see Gary Cahill’s wonder-tackle on Nathan Dyer, a tackle that might have saved the win but which had Swansea wrongly begging for a penalty.
“I must be honest, I didn’t see the situation. It is very difficult for me to say something about this as you know very well I don’t like to comment on the referee decision and I will do the same also today.”
And finally, a piece of manager-speak. Conte was asked if Swansea played well enough to stay in the Premier League (they’re just one point ahead of the relegation zone.) That’s not Conte’s business and so he redirected the question into a more philosophical discussion about how Chelsea still struggle to go for the jugular.
“I think even today we could be more clinical to kill the game and also today I think we kept the game in balance. For example, against West Ham it was the same, we dominated the game and then we created so many chances but scored only one goal.
“Today could have been the same. Swansea could have drawn, this season we are not clinical. In the last period we are winning but also we could kill the game. Instead the game was in balance until the end.”
So the gap to the Champions League is down to two. But Chelsea’s fate lies in the hands of Watford, who haven’t won a match since March 3rd. Worse, it’s at Wembley. Anyone know how to wake up the ghosts of 2016?