Antonio Conte said he was “delighted” with his players after they started his Chelsea tenure with a hard-fought 2-1 win over West Ham United. Chelsea won the game thanks to Diego Costa’s last minute winner, and Conte was thrilled after with the physical effort they had put into the match.
Athleticism has always been so important to Conte teams and having worked the players hard in pre-season the Italian coach was pleased with the results on the pitch.
“I am delighted for the performance because I saw a lot of good things, a lot of things that we are working on,” Conte said. “I liked the great intensity of the players. We know we can improve through work but, today, it was very important to start with a victory. Against a strong time like West Ham, we deserved this victory because we created a lot of chances.”
For Conte this was the first evidence that the players are taking on his ‘idea of football’, which he has been drilling them with since he arrived in early July. Conte hopes that his approach will help Chelsea move on from a very disappointing 2015-16 season.
“When a new manager arrives in a new club, he tries to bring with him his philosophy of football,” Conte said. “We are working only one month together with the players, but tonight I saw the right intensity with the players always trying to find the situation we find in training sessions. It’s important to bring something different from last season.”
That intensity was helped by the contribution of N’Golo Kante on his Chelsea debut, the former Leicester midfielder dominating the middle of the pitch with his running and tackling. Conte was very impressed.
“N’Golo is a great player,” Conte said. “It’s important for the team that a player with a good technique but a fantastic stamina is able to cover a lot of space on the pitch and is able to help his team-mates always. We are happy, but I’m happy for the performance of all the Chelsea players.”
Slaven Bilic said that while he thought Diego Costa should have been sent off for a second yellow card, he was not too upset about the oversight.
“From our point of view we are not happy with that,” Bilic said. “But I don’t think it was reckless, it was not a deliberate one. It was late. Nine times out of ten, a challenge on a goalkeeper like this looks like a booking. Unfortunately this was the tenth time. But, really, I’m only disappointed with the way the goals were conceded.”