Conte credits Blues' turnaround to 'blind faith'

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and N'Golo Kante celebrating after Saturday's 3-1 home victory over Arsenal.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and N'Golo Kante celebrating after Saturday's 3-1 home victory over Arsenal.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Manager Antonio Conte believes "blind faith" in his methods has played a key role in Chelsea's transformation from last season's strugglers to this season's champions-elect, or as the Italian puts it, from "an ugly duckling into a swan".

Chelsea sit nine points clear at the top of the table, having won 16 of their 18 Premier League matches since losing 0-3 to Arsenal in September.

They, and he, have not looked back since.

"If you compare this Chelsea with the team from last season (when they finished 10th, having won the title in the previous campaign) then it's normal that you'd end up this way: You can't turn an ugly duckling into a swan in an instant," said Conte, who took over at Stamford Bridge in July, having led Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

"I'm not a coach who compromises and with my blind faith in the work we're doing, and in my ideas, I've been able to forge straight ahead without worrying about anyone else."

That no-nonsense approach can be seen in his handling of Diego Costa after, it was reported, the pair had a falling out over interest in the striker from a club in China.

Costa subsequently missed the 3-0 victory over Leicester City on Jan 14, and while Conte continues to stand by the official explanation for his absence from the game - that it was due to a back injury - he has admitted to engaging in a heated exchange with the fiery forward.

"Diego Costa? I was clear with him, I raised my voice and the player understood. Now everything is perfect," he told Sky Sport Italia.

Costa is the club's top scorer this season with 15 league goals .

Following Saturday's 3-1 home victory over Arsenal, Chelsea move on to what appears to be a hugely favourable run of league fixtures against Burnley, Swansea, West Ham, Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace, before a meeting with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

It is conceivable Chelsea could have their second title in three seasons all but wrapped up by the time they take on Pep Guardiola's side on April 5, but Conte is refusing to look that far ahead.

"My experiences as a player taught me that you will win a lot and lose a lot too and that instilled in me a fierce will to win," he said.

"Those who are out in front must not falter.

"It sends a message to those who are following, an increasingly loud message, that we must make the most of this period."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Conte credits Blues' turnaround to 'blind faith''. Print Edition | Subscribe