Conte chal­lenges Chelsea to fight to be cham­pi­ons

New Straits Times - - Sport -

alarm bells were ring­ing when Abramovich felt com­pelled to make a visit to Chelsea’s train­ing ground fol­low­ing suc­ces­sive de­feats against Liver­pool and Ar­se­nal in Septem­ber.

Those chas­ten­ing re­sults have been her­alded as the turn­ing point in Chelsea’s sea­son as Conte switched to his pre­ferred three-man de­fen­sive sys­tem and the Blues im­me­di­ately reeled off 13 con­sec­u­tive league wins.

But, just as sig­nif­i­cantly, Conte per­suaded his play­ers to buy into his be­lief that the foun­da­tions for suc­cess are laid on the train­ing pitch, where fo­cus on tac­ti­cal dis­ci­pline, pat­terns of play and supreme phys­i­cal fit­ness have all been re­warded.

En­sur­ing that pow­er­ful dress­ing room voices like John Terry, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabre­gas weren’t granted spe­cial treat­ment also won over play­ers who felt un­der­val­ued dur­ing Mour­inho’s tur­bu­lent reign.

Conte this week gave a glimpse of the steely streak he has im­posed on his play­ers so im­pres­sively.

“I like to un­der­line a con­cept, I don’t have to keep the play­ers happy. We must win,” Conte said.

“You speak about ‘happy’. I speak about ‘to win’ and to work very hard.

“Play­ers are not al­ways happy to work very hard. But I think my tar­get is to put in the mind of my play­ers a win­ning men­tal­ity.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult to keep 20

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