LONDON – Chelsea’s new manager Antonio Conte jumped into the stands to celebrate with the home fans at Stamford Bridge as his managerial debut in the Premier League ended in dramatic, glorious fashion.
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Diego Costa calmly found the bottom corner of the net in the 89th minute to send Conte and Chelsea’s fans wild, as the Italian manager marked his opening game as a coach in England with a memorable moment and three points in a 2-1 win against West Ham United.
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Speaking to reporters after the game, Conte revealed the moment he walked out at the Bridge was just as special as when he saw Costa’s low shot hit the back of the net.
“It was fantastic,” Conte said. “I have to say thanks to Chelsea’s fans because the welcome was fantastic. To see the Italian flag in the stand, I had a bit of emotion with me and my wife and my daughter. It was fantastic, this welcome. I hope that with the work with my players, to repay this welcome.”
New signing N’Golo Kante improved as the game wore on for Chelsea and Conte made a point of going up to the French international midfielder and hugging him at the final whistle.
ProSoccerTalk asked Conte about Kante and the Italian midfielder revealed just how important he is to the Blues.
“N'Golo Kante is a great player, a great buy and is important for the team,” Conte told ProSoccerTalk. “He is a player who has a good technique but fantastic stamina. He is able to cover a lot of space in the pitch and he is able to help always the teammates. We are happy for his performance but I am happy with the performance of all the Chelsea players.”
It wasn’t just Kante he hugged at the final whistle, he hugged most of his Chelsea players as the passionate former Juventus and Italy boss is already showing signs of fostering a real togetherness with his players after just a few months in charge.
That new identity and fast counter-attacking style is already developing.
“I think every manager, when he arrives at a new club, he tries to bring his football philosophy. We are working only one month with the players but I am pleased. Tonight I saw the right intensity and the players always tried to find the situation that we can find during the training session,” Conte said. “It is important to bring something different compared to last season. I think every manager brings his football philosophy. For this reason, I am very happy for the behavior and attitude of the players. They are putting themselves in the team. I think to have a great team this is important. The players with great talent have to put themselves in the team.”
Chelsea played a 4-1-4-1 formation with Eden Hazard cutting in from the left and Willian dangerous on the right. Nemanja Matic and Oscar played just in front of Kante and Conte was incessantly screaming at his central midfield duo to get on the ball and turn as soon as they could. Costa delivered the winning moment and has boss said that he didn’t feel like his striker deserved a second yellow for a late challenge on West Ham’s Adrian late in the game. Conte, of course, praised Costa’s passion as the Spanish international dug deep to grab Chelsea the win.
Fast transitions when winning the ball back are one of Conte’s most recognizable traits and that was evident from his Chelsea team on his PL bow.
ProSoccerTalk asked West Ham’s manager what he thought of Chelsea under Conte and the Croatian manager was mightily impressed with what his counterpart has created in just a few weeks at in west London.
“I was impressed,” Bilic revealed. “We started better the first 15 minutes but then it was exactly what we expected, for them to be on their toes and be aggressive and to use that individual class, especially on the half counter attacks in a situation where we lost the ball and gave the ball to them in a part of the pitch where you simply can’t do it. It was a very energetic Chelsea.”
Chelsea could be set to add to their squad too, with Conte revealing the club is working hard behind-the-scenes to try and bring in new players, while he revealed he is “happy” with Cesc Fabregas’ attitude despite the Spaniard being named on the bench but not brought on against the Hammers.
The likes of Romelu Lukaku have been linked with a $80 million move to Chelsea and Conte called the current market “crazy” as they look around for new additions.
“About the transfer policy, it is important to have a contact every day with the club. This is a very crazy market. Very crazy. The club knows my idea. It is important to find the right solution to improve this team. Not to buy only for buying,” Conte said. “Now we are awaiting for the right solution to improve the team but I am very happy to have these players because they show me every day great attitude, great work rate, great behavior. I am very glad. With two weeks until the end of the transfer market, we pay attention and if we find the right solution to improve the team it is okay.”