Conte: Point of reference

After a fantastic team display beat Brighton 4-0 on Saturday, Antonio Conte praised the performance of Michy Batshuayi who led our attacking line well against the Seagulls.

Batshuayi filled in for the suspended Alvaro Morata and our head coach explained why that position is so important in our style of play, allowing other forwards such as Eden Hazard and Willian – who both shone at the weekend – to link up with devastating effect.

‘I think our performance was an important one,’ said Conte.  ‘We played very well and in this type of game, against Brighton who are very strong and they decided to play with three central defenders who are very strong physically, it wasn’t easy to find the space, but we started the game very well. We had some great combinations between the forwards, and I think the second goal was fantastic for us. But it wasn’t easy for us to win the game.

‘In this case, I think Batshuayi played a really good game. He didn’t score but he worked very well for the team, he did what I asked him to do, and a no.9 is an important player and important point of reference for our team. I was very satisfied with the work Batshuayi did.

‘In my idea of football, our striker must be a point of reference so we can have these types of combinations.’

With transfer activity possible before the end of the month, Conte reiterated that he takes great pride in working with the players currently at his disposal, who he feels are giving him 100 per cent.

‘This period is not simple – it is not easy for some of the players, especially for the ones who want to go on loan. But at the same time, in my head, there is the idea to work with these players and continue to work with all these players.

‘I am very happy to work with this group of players because they show me in every moment great commitment. They show me that they want to do what I want during the game and I’m happy.’

Linking that back to Batshuayi, who the media have speculated could leave on loan if another striker arrives this month, Conte added:

‘Batshuayi is a Chelsea player and we are working very hard with him, in the same way we are working with Morata, Hazard, Willian and Pedro, and now with Barkley. For me, Michy is Chelsea’s player and, in my mind, there is the will to continue to work with him and try to improve.

‘Then, if the player decides to take another solution because he wants to play with regularity, I don’t know if that can happen. But at the same time, in my mind, there is the desire to continue working with all my players and to try to improve everyone.’

Speaking of improved players, Conte praised Andreas Christensen’s development this term. The Danish centre-back was substituted just before the hour mark at the Amex Stadium after a clash of heads, and Conte explained how he was happy to take the referee’s advice, even if Christensen himself believed he could play on.

‘The referee saw a head injury and then he saw the player was touching his head and for this reason maybe he thought to suggest a substitution,’ explained Conte. The club’s medical team followed concussion protocols to the letter and Christensen showed no signs of concussion. They treated him for a contusion.

‘The player wasn’t happy with this decision,’ continued Conte, ‘but when you have on the bench a player like David Luiz and we are winning 2-0, I prefer to make this substitution. It was a simple contusion and the player is okay. If we have to play another game now, he is ready to play.

‘I think from the start of the season, Christensen has improved in a fantastic way. This player, despite only being 21 years old, I think he could become a really important defender, not only for Chelsea, but in the world. The most important thing is to be humble, to continue with the will to improve and the will to work, but I am very pleased for his improvement.

‘He has a lot of space for improvement to have more personality, like David Luiz, with the ball. It’s very important to have this, and in this way, he can improve a lot.’