Conte craves even better Blues
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.”
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.