Conte kept up all night in ef­fort to avoid Arse­nal re­peat

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - JACK DE MENEZES

CHELSEA’S heavy de­feat at the hands of ri­vals Arse­nal will keep Antonio Conte up at night, such was the les­son his team re­ceived at the Emi­rates Sta­dium on Satur­day in a rare yet wor­ry­ing dis­play of in­ept de­fend­ing from his en­tire side.

The Ital­ian’s an­gry half­time team talk did lit­tle to stem the flow of con­stant Arse­nal at­tacks in the sec­ond half, and Chelsea were in a way lucky to es­cape the Emi­rates hav­ing con­ceded only three goals. Arse­nal have ex­pe­ri­enced much worse in re­cent years when play­ing at the same level as Chelsea did, but that is no con­so­la­tion for Conte.

“I don’t sleep, sure. I don’t sleep,” said Conte, hav­ing seen Alexis Sanchez, Theo Wal­cott and Me­sut Ozil all score to con­sign him to a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive de­feat in the Pre­mier League.

“This is nor­mal. Af­ter this game, this de­feat, it’s nor­mal for me not to sleep. Not only tonight, but for two nights. When I don’t sleep, I re­flect. And it’s im­por­tant to re­flect.”

It was Gary Cahill who was at fault for Sanchez’s opener, his woe­fully un­der-hit back­pass to Thibaut Cour­tois lay­ing the ball on a plate for the Chilean to drib­ble through on goal and chip over the goal­keeper.

But his per­for­mance on the whole will be of great con­cern to Conte, with the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional show­ing no co­he­sion what­so­ever with cen­tre­back part­ner David Luiz and Cour­tois.

Conte would not sin­gle out play­ers though, de­spite the ob­vi­ous con­cerns. “I don’t want to talk about de­fend­ers, mid­field­ers or strik­ers,” he said.

“Be­cause I think we lose and we win as a team. We must con­tinue to think in the same way al­ways, it is im­por­tant. To­day we un­der­stood – me first, then the play­ers – that this league is very tough.”

The Ital­ian’s rep­u­ta­tion – one that sees him dish out the tongue-lash­ings more of­ten than com­fort­ing arms around shoul­ders – en­sured that the vis­i­tor’s dress­ing room was not a nice place to be in at half­time. But Conte in­sisted that, for now, that con­ver­sa­tion will re­main pri­vate.

That dis­sat­is­fac­tion was echoed in stand-in cap­tain Branislav Ivanovic’s com­ments af­ter the match, in which he ad­mit­ted that the play­ers didn’t be­lieve in Conte’s plan from the open­ing whis­tle.

“We didn’t start the game in the way we wanted,” Ivanovic said, hav­ing led the side in John Terry’s ab­sence.

“We didn’t be­lieve in what we were do­ing at the begin­ning and we were pun­ished. We have to be hon­est with our­selves and put more at­ten­tion on the small de­tails. We have to be more fo­cused and con­cen­trated on the game.”

What should be a sim­ple trip to Hull next week­end now be­comes a piv­otal fix­ture for Conte.

Sure, he doesn’t have the de­fen­sive tar­gets he asked for in the sum­mer, but this side is good enough – on pa­per – to eas­ily beat a Hull side who still have no per­ma­nent man­ager and have leaked four goals in their last two league matches.

Fail to beat the Tigers, and Conte will face un­wel­come ques­tions from one Ro­man Abramovich. – The In­de­pen­dent

place he had last year at West Brom,” Wenger said. “That’s the neg­a­tive of the day.

“We don’t know if the dam­age is as big at the mo­ment, we have to wait for 48 hours. But he left the sta­dium in a brace and I’m a bit wor­ried for that.”

Co­quelin was also on the re­ceiv­ing end of a late tackle from for­mer Arse­nal cap­tain Cesc Fabre­gas that ref­eree Michael Oliver spot­ted but elected to just warn the Spa­niard rather than book him. Co­quelin was left rolling in pain af­ter be­ing caught on his foot, but quickly got to his feet as play con­tin­ued.

Apart from the in­jury to Co­quelin, Arse­nal emerged from the match with only pos­i­tives to draw on, and striker Olivier Giroud also re­turned from his re­cent toe in­jury to come on as a sec­ond­half sub­sti­tute for Alexis Sanchez af­ter the Chilean scored his fourth goal in his last three matches to con­tinue his rich vein of form. – The In­de­pen­dent Arse­nal’s Fran­cis Co­quelin re­ceives med­i­cal at­ten­tion af­ter sus­tain­ing an in­jury in their match against Chelsea at the Emi­rates Sta­dium on Sun­day. –

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