Graham Potter believes his Chelsea players' willingness to do the dirty work in defence played a big part in our fifth win and fourth clean sheet in a row, but also acknowledged the vital roles of Mason Mount and Kepa Arrizabalaga in our victory at Aston Villa.
It was far from easy for Chelsea at Villa Park, as we required several impressive saves by Kepa to keep us in front during the first half, with a stop down low to tip a Jacob Ramsey effort onto the post and another to turn a point-blank Danny Ings header over the bar in particular catching the eye.
Mount also played his part in Birmingham, punishing a misjudged header by Tyrone Mings ruthlessly to volley us into an early lead before earning and then scoring a second-half free-kick to secure a 2-0 win and all three points.
Potter admitted it wasn't the perfect performance, but he is happy to come away with the points and the win in the circumstances.
'I’m obviously delighted with the result because it was a hard-fought game,' he said. 'Aston Villa made us suffer, certainly in that first half. We started off okay then lost our way a little bit in the second half of the first half.
'We needed Kepa then and he made some fantastic saves. Again Mason’s made the difference, but I thought we did better in the second half. It was more stable.
'It’s not easy for us in terms of the number of games we’ve played and to come back from Milan and to come here. They’ve got a lot of quality on the pitch so they can cause you problems at any point.
'So I’m delighted with the three points and delighted with the clean sheet and pleased for Mason and Kepa in particular, in that they’ve managed to help us get over the line. That will probably be the story but different players need to step up and today they’ve done it.'
Potter expanded on the impressive performances and recent form from Kepa and Mount...
'Kepa’s contributing to us with clean sheets, he’s contributing to how we want to play and the environment about the place. I’ve got to say all three goalkeepers we have here have been really good in that regard, supporting each other providing good competition and that keeps everybody’s level up.
'Kepa has played at a fantastic level today, he’s made some brilliant saves which kept us in the game and allowed us to win the points, so I’m really pleased with him.
'For Mason I think it’s about the team, about his role in the team. He works so hard for the team always. He’s got the quality, he’s got the ability to score and assist. Sometimes players go through little dips if the team isn’t functioning that well and maybe the team wasn’t functioning as well as it maybe can.
'As a result of that individuals don’t play to the same level. But the effort’s always been there from my perspective and once he can get into the space we want to get him into, he has the quality to execute and we saw that today.'
Potter credits our four games without conceding to the players' attitude...
'I think it’s a collective desire to do the ugly stuff in the game, a collective desire to help each other, to be together. If we need to suffer we will suffer.
'We have humility, we know that sometimes an opponent can get the better of us, that’s normal in football, but at least we see players running and putting their bodies on the line to make blocks.
'That’s an important part of the game, because we’ve got quality, the quality’s there in the group.'
We made several changes during the game as Potter searched for the right shape and balance in Reece James' absence, with Raheem Sterling, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Cesar Azpilicueta all filling that role on the right at one point at Villa Park...
'It can happen sometimes when you lose a key player. We tried to be a back three on the ball and a back four defensively, with Raheem on the right. We started the game quite well in the first 15 minutes but in the end we lost a bit of momentum and they were putting pressure on us with second balls and getting behind us, so I felt we had to make a change at half-time and the boys did really well. So we’ve got options there.
'Like anything, you have to look at the balance of the team. Marc Cucurella was the left centre-back, which can work but didn’t work so much today. We had to adjust that quickly and moved Raheem high and wide in advanced positions. Clearly the balance of the team is one we have to look at and find the right solutions.'
Potter also provided an update on James' knee injury...
'In terms of his involvement in the World Cup I don’t know, it depends on how he recovers. I’m pretty sure he’ll give everything but he’s in a brace for probably four weeks so that’s thrown in a bit of doubt. The boys had a couple of days free, it was important, especially for the international players to get a bit of a break when they can.
'Reece felt a bit of discomfort the following day so came home to be assessed. Nothing has got any worse, so now we have to support him in getting fit and strong.
'He’s naturally upset because he’s injured and he misses games for us when he was in a fantastic moment with his performance over the two games against Milan. He’d gotten himself in a real good moment of form so he’s disappointed to be injured, but he will fight, he will try his best to get back as quickly as he can and when he does he’ll be a top player.'