Well, what went wrong in the theatre of dreams yesterday afternoon. The demeanour of Antonio Conte in his post-match press conference very much had the look of someone attending a post-mortem. The normally buoyant Conte appeared unusually down.
Having lost Thibaut Courtois in the week to an injury alleged to have occurred whilst playing basketball with some of his team mates, for an NBA film shoot. Something, Chelsea were contractually obliged to do. Things got worse for the blues when Marcos Alonso had to pull out of the game, in the warm-up, due to a viral infection.
Asmir Begovich came in for Courtois and Kurt Zouma for Alonso. From the kick-off, Chelsea appeared out of sorts. Defensively they were all over the place. David Luiz, Gary Cahill were as poor as I’ve seen them since changing to a defensive three. Zouma was not at the races at all. Sadly, not blaming him, but, Begovich is not in the same class as Courtois.
Add into the mix a wounded Jose Mourinho, from the recent cup game at the bridge, when he was constantly booed from some sections of the stadium and it all added up to a recipe for disaster for Conte’s men.
On Sky Sports, Gary Neville was surprised that losing a left back could cause so many problems. However, Conte didn’t simply bring in a left-back as direct replacement. He moved Azpilicueta from right-back to left wing-back and bought Zouma in on the right-side of the defence. Two changes. At 1-0 down and with 30 mins gone Moses and Azpilicueta swapped wing-back positions. Four changes, add in Begovich in goal and that’s five positional and personnel changes from the usual starting line-up.
The only Chelsea player to really come out of the game with any credit was N’Golo Kante who was trying to do the work of four men but with Diego Costa up to his old tricks and Eden Hazard not getting much in the way of service and being well marshalled by Ander Herrera, defeat was, I’m afraid, inevitable.
Chelsea could afford this defeat and they still have a 4-point lead at the top of the table. But, coming just two weeks after the home loss to Crystal Palace, they are going to have to sharpen themselves up for the final six games because Tottenham are looking depressingly invincible.