Friday 9 December 2016

Blues hit high notes for Conte

Chelsea 5 Everton 0

Miguel Delaney

Published 06/11/2016 | 02:30

Diego Costa celebrates after scoring against Everton from Nemanja Matic’s flick-on at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Photo: PA
Diego Costa celebrates after scoring against Everton from Nemanja Matic’s flick-on at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Photo: PA

Chelsea, quite simply, look special again. Antonio Conte had his own word for it, when pressed to describe this evisceration of Everton in Italian: "Fantastico".

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The reality is that, right now, it's difficult to know where the superlatives should stop. It's also difficult to say whether Chelsea are even on top form yet, having just gone top of the table. That is because of how much performances and scorelines have escalated in the last few weeks alone. They are soaring.

Oscar (L) and Cleverley (R) battle for possession. Photo: Getty
Oscar (L) and Cleverley (R) battle for possession. Photo: Getty

This was actually their fourth fixture in a row that had looked like it would be awkward, only for Chelsea to make it so strikingly easy, keeping a fifth successive clean sheet. Then there's the last three home results: 3-0, 4-0 and now 5-0. It's a world away from the difficulties of last season, a circumstance that throws open a bigger debate about what certain managers should be getting out of their squads.

Conte didn't really want to get into that, and insisted that he only wanted to "send a message to ourselves", but there was one line that had a few layers to it.

"You have to show you can win with the idea of good football. It's important to put the players in situations to exploit their talent."

No one personifies all of this better than Chelsea's best player, Eden Hazard. After 11 games last season, the Belgian had scored no goals. After 11 games this season, it's seven - his best ever start to a season at Stamford Bridge.

Everton's Ramiro Funes Mori and Ashley Williams challenge Chelsea's Pedro. Photo: Getty
Everton's Ramiro Funes Mori and Ashley Williams challenge Chelsea's Pedro. Photo: Getty

He gave Chelsea another fine start in a game as, for the fourth match in a row, they were 1-0 up inside 18 minutes. Hazard also scored a type of goal that has become all too familiar, cutting in from the wing to then hit a low shot around a partially unsighted goalkeeper.

They were just as quick adding a second. Within a minute, Marcus Alonso had hit his own first goal for the club since joining in the summer, screaming at Diego Costa to get out of the way so he could power the ball between Maarten Stekelenburg's legs. Costa didn't have to wait too long for a goal himself, as he fired home Nemanja Matic's flick-on on 42 minutes. The best was still to come, as Hazard exchanged flicks with Pedro on 54 minutes to then drill home the finest goal of the game, before Pedro himself tapped home on 73 to secure Conte's highest win.

It is a simply remarkable transformation, and it said much that Ronald Koeman seemed in awe at what Conte was doing with this team, rather than sounding angry at his own. The Everton manager had already paid them a huge compliment by making a substitution as early as the 36th minute, hauling off Bryan Oviedo for Kevin Mirallas, and thereby publicly admitting his own attempt at three at the back wasn't working. He then paid Conte an even bigger compliment after the game.

"I never saw a team playing so well this system," Koeman enthused. "This system is very difficult to play against, the movement of the players.

Hazard scored the opening goal. Photo: Getty
Hazard scored the opening goal. Photo: Getty

"Chelsea showed us today a very high level of football - in every aspect of football. I did not expect that big a difference on the pitch, but it happened.

"How they work, how they run, how they press - we can learn from them. It's a big lesson what happened today."

It is also a lesson for everyone else in the league, but one that came with a warning. "We can improve," Conte said.

That phrase is a more ominous than anything.

Sunday Indo Sport

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