Chelsea boss urges players to remember humiliation
When Chelsea went in at half-time 3-0 down to Arsenal in September, the pain for Antonio Conte was unusual but, more importantly, also unforgettable, writes Matt Law.
Ten minutes after the break, Conte made the change that turned around Chelsea's season, replacing Cesc Fabregas with Marcos Alonso to switch to a back three.
The rest is fast becoming history. Chelsea have only lost one Premier League game since and hold a nine-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the table as the two teams clash again, at Stamford Bridge.
But rather than trying to wipe what happened at the Emirates from his players' memories, Conte wants them to keep the feeling of humiliation to mind - to ensure it does not happen again.
"This defeat seems far (away), but it's important to remember because it was a bad defeat, 3-0 after the first half, and in my mind it's always present, this defeat," said Conte. "I hope also in the minds of my players. On Saturday, for sure, this game will be very difficult and I think it's important to remember the first game against Arsenal.
"Usually, my teams are not used to conceding three goals after the first half. We work a lot to avoid this. It was a shock for me. I tried to transfer this shock on to my players. To avoid it happening again."
N'Golo Kante was caught out for Arsenal's third goal at the Emirates, but has been superb ever since and is on course to collect his second title winner's medal in two years, having been part of Leicester's historic success last season.
"It is no coincidence they (Chelsea) are in the position that they are and Leicester were in the position they were last season," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. But Conte laughed at Wenger's suggestion that Kante is the reason Chelsea lead the table and said: "If it is so simple, every team would pay £100million for N'Golo and would be sure to win the title."
Wenger, meanwhile, has admitted that his Arsenal future beyond the end of this season will be shaped by his "gut feeling" amid a fan culture that is more volatile than ever.
In an ideal world, both Wenger and the club will look to continue their partnership. Wenger, though, when asked what would inform his assessment, he said: "It is not all quantifiable. It is linked with your gut feeling as well.
"My future has always been certain," he said. "I focus 100 per cent until the last day of my contract. That is the only way you can guarantee the future." (© Daily Telegraph, London)