Antonio Conte heads into this weekend’s game against West Brom having made a mere eight changes to his starting selection in Premier League matches, the lowest number of alterations by any of the 20 clubs.
The consistent form of the players and the results that have taken them top are of course major contributors to that, but it has also been a big plus that the boss’s hand has rarely been forced through injury.
Six Chelsea players have been able to start all 14 league games this season and the loss of Nemanja Matic for the game at Man City last weekend finally brought an end to a run of six top-flight games without a team change. The midfielder’s calf muscle injury has recovered sufficiently for him to be in contention for a rapid return, and Conte places great value in keeping his players out of the treatment room when challenging for honours.
‘I am very pleased to have few injuries for so long because for a season it is important if you are able to avoid muscular problems,’ he says.
‘The traumatic problems are very difficult to avoid, but to avoid the muscular problems it is very important to have a method, a philosophy during training sessions and to work with the players, together with the medical staff, to try to find the best solution to have few injuries.
‘The number of injuries is always important at the end of the season, and usually when you have many injuries you can lose key players and this is not good for the team.’
The traumatic injuries it is hard to have a prevention strategy for are those caused by collisions or severe twisting, and included in that could have been one inflicted on David Luiz by Sergio Aguero’s red card foul last weekend. Fortunately, our in-form defender escaped serious harm although a late decision will be made on whether he is fit for Sunday’s game, and Conte says when he first saw the TV replay he was afraid of serious harm.
‘For sure the tackle was very dangerous for David Luiz,’ he notes.
How muscle injuries are avoided while still working the squad up to peak fitness and readiness for each game is a tough challenge, admits the Italian.
‘It is normal if you have a soft training session every day that you never have problems with the players. It is the more simple way to be a manager,’ he points out.
‘When you work very hard it is not easy sometimes but with the results, with good condition and good form then the players understand the right way to follow.
‘The most important thing is to arrive prepared for the game in the right way, then if you can find the right solution for the players to work and also to enjoy the training, this is the best.
‘My philosophy with my staff is we continue to work with my method we used with the Italy national team and with Juventus, and with Siena, Bari, Atlanta - all my experience.
‘The analysis statistics are important to check what happened during the training session and during the game, but the most important thing for me is my eyes. It is important to look and understand if someone is more tired than another, or if someone is a bit lazy or not and you can push him. The eye in my job is very important.’