Conte concern at Blues’ bad habits
Red cards help consign champion to shock defeat in league opener
LONDON — Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has accepted he may have to embed a new formation in his team if it continues to have players sent off.
After being reduced to 10 men in defeats to Arsenal in May’s FA Cup final and this month’s Community Shield, Chelsea ended the opening game of its Premier League defense with nine players as Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas were dismissed in a shock 3-2 loss to Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
It left Conte concerned by the inability of his players to control their emotions.
“I saw two faces of my team today,” Conte said after a match in which the Blues were 3-0 down before halftime.
“One positive in the second half, one negative in the first half. We lost our composure after the first red card and we conceded the three goals.
“We have to improve a lot on this aspect because this type of situation can happen.”
The Italian added: “We have to think that there is the rest of the game to play and do our best. We must also have the right experience to face this type of situation.
“I have to start to study a new formation with 10 players because this irregularity is worrying.”
Conte’s sanguine postmatch analysis was no doubt inspired by the ferocity of Chelsea’s second-half comeback, first with 10 men after Cahill’s 14th-minute dismissal for a lunge on Steven Defour and then nine after Fabregas collected a second yellow card.
The Londoners were also without the injured trio of Pedro, Eden Hazard and recent arrival Tiemoue Bakayoko, although new striker Alvaro Morata impressed as a second-half substitute, scoring one goal and setting up another for David Luiz.
“We tried to attack in the right way in the second half,” Conte explained. “We didn’t lose our balance and I have to be proud about the great commitment, the great desire, the great will of my players even though it was very difficult to change the result in the second half.
“I am not worried because we have to trust in our work. Today we had three injured players missing and one missing for a ban.
“For sure we’ll have two players out — Cahill and Fabregas — from a ban in the next game but we’ll find the right solution.
“Alvaro is working very hard to find his good fitness as soon as possible and to adapt very quickly to our style of football.
“But for sure he played very well in the last 30 minutes, which is good news for us.”
Meanwhile, Burnley boss Sean Dyche knows that winning away to the champion on the opening weekend is only a small step in his side’s bid to retain its top-flight status for the second season in a row.
Dyche saw Sam Vokes score twice and leftback Stephen Ward connect with a stunning volley as his side won away in the Premier League at the first time of asking — last season its only away win came at Crystal Palace in April.
“This result kills off the away-win story for this season but we’re not getting carried away,” said Dyche.
“It’s a great win for us, brilliant for our players, brilliant for our supporters but we know there’s a big season right in front of us, the ‘second season’ that everyone’s telling us about.
“It’s very difficult at this club to make massive strides,” the Englishman added. “This win won’t do us any harm at all but it won’t make our season.
“There are a lot of big games coming so it’s important that we remind ourselves of that.”
Dyche, whose only previous managerial job was at Watford, added: “We still gave away possession too easily in the second half.
“Chelsea are a top-class side and it is tough to come here and dominate possession, even when they have 10 men, but we were too flippant with the ball and we gave it away too cheaply. That is something we’ve got to work on.”
Sam Vokes heads home Burnley's third goal against Chelsea during their Premier League opener at Stamford Bridge in London on Saturday. The Clarets went on to defeat Antonio Conte’s defending champion 3-2.