Chelsea have no time to waste or celebrate as this week’s hard work has just begun. The Blues may have managed to close the gap on Liverpool and Tottenham with Sunday’s uplifting 1-0 win over Klopp & Co, but haven’t caught up with them yet and need plenty of help. Conte’s men not only need to win all our remaining games, but also hope and pray that either the Reds or Spurs lose theirs (or at least draw, in the case of the former).
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s game against Huddersfield Town, the penultimate match of the Premier League season and Chelsea's game-in-hand over Liverpool, Conte spoke about a multitude of topics including player fitness, player form and player impact of new signings like Giroud.
“He [Giroud] has been a good signing for us. We are talking about a player with great experience, an international player. He played many leagues in this country and a good signing for us.
”Now he is a good fit and he played a really good game against Liverpool not only for the goal but also because he worked very hard for the team with the ball and without the ball. We must be pleased for this signing.”
In the win against Liverpool, Giroud was the difference yet again, scoring the only goal of the game, his fourth in his last five appearances. It’d be an understatement to say that Giroud has been a good signing for Chelsea and this just goes to show the importance of good depth in football.
Having options that the manager can trust and rely upon aren’t just useful in games where the manager wants to rotate, but they’re also a great way to affect a match mid-game with the help of substitutes as proven by Giroud’s super-sub performance against Southampton where his brace helped Chelsea turn a two-goal deficit into a one-goal win.
2-0 down vs Southampton:— bet365 (@bet365) May 6, 2018
- Comes on and scores twice.
FA Cup Semi-final:
- Scores a mazy solo goal.
Must win match vs Liverpool:
- Puts Chelsea in front.
⚽️ Olivier Giroud. pic.twitter.com/6auhcIkr0n
Of course, the number of players at the club has not changed much in January but you get the feeling that these are the options that Conte trusts and that’s what matters as having players is futile unless they actually get minutes.
“I think I have the same options as the start. When you have some injuries and you are forced to take some decisions. But in January Kenedy left and Emerson arrived, then Batshuayi went away and Giroud arrived. Then stop. One player go, one player come and not too many changes, not great chances not great difference.”
17 - Since 2015/16, Olivier Giroud has scored 17 headed goals in the Premier League, more than any other player from the Top 5 European leagues (ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, 16). Specialist. pic.twitter.com/m6Vrpt7rhS— OptaJean (@OptaJean) May 6, 2018
Speaking of good depth, one such option in the form of Morata was missing against Liverpool and while the lack of a backup proved inconsequential on Sunday, thankfully, Chelsea’s record signing is fit and ready to go against Huddersfield.
“Yeah he is fit, he is contention for tomorrow’s game. No other news.”
Moving on from a player who wasn’t involved in the Liverpool match to one who was and had a great impact: Tiémoué Bakayoko. After a seven match stretch, where the summer import from Monaco was only involved for two minutes total, Bakayoko finally seems to be getting his confidence and groove back. The Liverpool game was his third start in the last four games. Hopefully, he can continue this upturn in form for three more games as the end of the season draws near.
“If you remember well, I always said that we are talking about a young player, only 23 years old and this is his first season in this country.
”To arrive and adapt yourself quickly in this league is not simple. Not simple to go into our idea of football. He has the right characteristics to play for Chelsea.
”I trust him and he played a good game against Liverpool. But I know him and for sure he has a lot of space of improvement. For this I am sure but we are talking about a young player with not great seasons on his back in the past, he played only one season with Monaco last season and he played often.”
In the final weeks of the season, everything seems to be falling in place for Chelsea. Our rivals seem to be choking, our signings seem to be performing well and all the off-the-field issues seem to have quietened down. Hopefully, with a little bit of fortune and a lot of hard work, we can complete this turn around and deliver home the FA Cup trophy and the top four finish.