Antonio Conte hailed the attitude of his players after the Blues equalled our club record 11 consecutive league wins with a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The Italian was impressed with the way his team approached the fixture and matched the commitment of the home side from the very first whistle.
‘Now I see a strong mentality in my players,’ said Conte. ‘To play this physical game against Crystal Palace and to have the right behaviours, to understand the way to fight to win, to fight in the same way like Crystal Palace is not simple.
‘The best thing you can see is these players with great talent and great commitment are putting their talent in the team. This is fantastic for me, and also for the fans, to see this commitment, this will to fight for every ball.’
This was the ninth clean sheet the Blues have kept during our sensational winning run and Conte praised this achievement, but admits that winning our last two games by a narrow margin has highlighted the need to improve in attacking areas.
‘I appreciate it’s fantastic because it’s not easy to not concede goals in this league,’ said the head coach. ‘Whenever there is a corner or a throw-in or a free-kick, the opponent can always have the opportunity to score a goal
‘I think we could have scored more goals on Saturday, but we only got one, and it was the same at Sunderland. We can improve and be more clinical because when you have this type of game you are at risk until the end. At Sunderland we were at risk when only a great save from Thibaut allowed us to win and we can improve on this aspect.’
Looking back to our last two defeats in the league, against Liverpool and Arsenal, Conte says those games acted as a wake-up call for everybody, including himself.
‘After the defeats we changed something in me, in my players, in the club as well,’ he explained. ‘We understood the way to go and have a different season compared to last season.
‘We found the right solution with the formation, but also improved the quality of our work in all aspects – the tactical aspect, the physical aspect and I am pleased for this because after these two bad games, we changed a lot.
‘I like to win and to see my team have two bad defeats, and ones we deserved, I didn’t like this. I tried to find the right solution on the pitch and off the pitch, to find the right solution with the players, to explain that we all deserve better than last season.’
Reflecting on the formation switch he introduced in the second half against the Gunners, Conte admitted he had toyed with implementing it earlier, but he feels the timing of such a wholesale change was of great importance.
‘I had it in my mind before the game against Liverpool,’ he revealed. ‘Also we started against Arsenal and then I said to change to three central defenders.
‘To change the situation totally is not easy. You must go slowly and put your idea together. But in my mind, before the game against Liverpool, there was the will to change, but I waited for the right moment. You always hope that you don’t have to put great change in the team because I have players that have all played with four at the back.’
With the Blues next in action against Bournemouth on Boxing Day, Conte explained how the build-up to that match will be treated the same as any other fixture as we look to extend our winning sequence.
‘On Christmas Day the players will stay together like the normal situation before a game,’ he said. ‘We’ll have a dinner in the hotel at nine o’clock, then we sleep, and the next day we will play the game when we hope to continue to win. Now we have a good pressure – after 11 wins we have positive pressure that we want to continue to win.’
Conte also looked ahead to the January transfer window, adding: ‘We must be very pleased for the achievement we have reached now, but it is logical that I look with my club for a solution to arrive in a good position at the end of the season. I don’t know what will happen in January but in this situation it is important to talk with my club – we have a fantastic relationship – but I have my idea and I prefer to discuss this with the club.’