Conte craves even bet­ter Blues

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Lon­don

Chelsea boss An­to­nio Conte said there is more to come from the Blues af­ter a 1-0 vic­tory at Crys­tal Palace gave the leader a club record-equalling 11th con­sec­u­tive league win.

Conte’s side moved nine points clear at the top of the Premier League stand­ings be­fore third-placed Arse­nal’s match at Manch­ester City on Sun­day and sec­ond-placed Liver­pool’s derby clash at Ever­ton on Monday.

Chelsea’s win­ning streak has made it the firm fa­vorite to win the ti­tle two years af­ter it was last crowned cham­pion.

How­ever, Conte wasn’t get­ting car­ried away.

“We still have two games be­fore the end of the first half of the sea­son and then 19 games be­fore we fin­ish the sea­son,” he said.

“Any­thing can hap­pen. It’s im­por­tant we con­tinue to work in this way and see the will to im­prove.

“We can im­prove though. You can al­ways im­prove in dif­fer­ent as­pects. I am pleased with this level we have reached and with work we can im­prove.

“We are work­ing very well and are in a good po­si­tion. We must not look at the ta­ble and con­tinue. We must not look at our ri­vals and con­tinue to work hard our­selves.”

Satur­day’s suc­cess at Sel­hurst Park un­der­lined the dra­matic im­prove­ment over­seen by Conte since he switched Chelsea’s for­ma­tion to 3-4-3 dur­ing a de­feat at Arse­nal in Septem­ber.

Since that loss, Chelsea has Ham­mers fans’ post-match fun been un­stop­pable, but Conte said he would not be able to change tac­tics with­out hav­ing the right play­ers to work with.

“I think, start­ing this sea­son, the man­ager must be a tailor and try and find the right fit for the team,” said the Ital­ian.

“For sure, for me, it wasn’t easy to ar­rive and un­der­stand very quickly the char­ac­ter­is­tics of my play­ers. I needed a bit of time.

“I tried a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion be­fore chang­ing the forma- tion, but I think the most im­por­tant thing is the men­tal­ity, our strong men­tal­ity. Also, the hard work we do on tac­tics, fit­ness and other things.

“We touched dif­fer­ent as­pects to try and im­prove. But I must be hon­est – you can bring your idea of foot­ball but if you don’t have play­ers who fol­low you, it doesn’t mat­ter.

“I’m pleased for my play­ers. They de­serve this be­cause, ev­ery day, I see their com­mit­ment, their workrate dur­ing the train­ing ses­sion, their will to do some­thing im­por­tant this sea­son.”

West Ham United fans were so re­lieved by their team’s 1-0 win over Hull City that they named a goal­post as man of the match af­ter the frame saved the Ham­mers three times.

A Mark Noble penalty earned Slaven Bilic’s side the three points in the Premier League clash at Lon­don Sta­dium, but de­fender An­drew Robert­son struck the post twice and striker Dieumerci Mbokani once as luck de­serted the strug­gling Tigers.

“With 57 per cent of the vote, con­grat­u­la­tions to The Post on se­cur­ing to­day’s Man of the Match award!,” tweeted West Ham as it an­nounced the re­sults of the sup­port­ers’ poll.

The goal­post beat Cheikhou Kouy­ate (17 per­cent), Andy Car­roll (14) and Win­ston Reid (12) in the vote.

Count­ing the Costa

Diego Costa’s goal se­cured the win but the Spain striker will miss the next match against Bournemouth af­ter col­lect­ing a fifth yel­low card of the cam­paign.

De­fen­sive mid­fielder N’Golo Kante, who has ex­celled since his sum­mer move from Le­ices­ter, will also be sus­pended for the visit of the Cher­ries on Dec 26, and Conte said the loss of two im­por­tant play­ers was a blow.

“I must be hon­est, I hoped for Diego to ar­rive at the game against Stoke (on Dec 31) with­out the yel­low card. It didn’t hap­pen. It’s a pity,” he said.

“It’s a pity be­cause he’s in a good mo­ment of form. He didn’t de­serve the yel­low card to­day, I must be hon­est, but against Bournemouth we have eight days to find a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion.

“For me, this can be an op­por­tu­nity to see other so­lu­tions or other ideas. But, if you ask me if I’m dis­ap­pointed to lose him and Kante, yes I’m dis­ap­pointed.”

PHIL NOBLE / REUTERS

Manch­ester United's two-goal match­win­ner Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic holds off West Brom's Gareth McAu­ley dur­ing their English Premier League match at The Hawthorns on Satur­day.

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