Thursday 14 December 2017

Conte rages at Chelsea's lack of composure in shock defeat

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte watches on during yesterday’s shock defeat. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte watches on during yesterday’s shock defeat. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

Antonio Conte accused his Chelsea players of losing the plot after they finished with nine men as captain Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas were sent off in a torrid 3-2 opening-day defeat at home to Burnley.

Chelsea have now seen players dismissed in their last three matches - including against Arsenal in the FA Cup and The Community Shield. They have lost all three games, and Conte was clearly frustrated afterwards.

Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Ward celebrates scoring Burnley’s second goal in their shock 3-2 win. Photo: PA Wire
Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Ward celebrates scoring Burnley’s second goal in their shock 3-2 win. Photo: PA Wire

Conte, whose pre-season preparations with the Premier League champions have been overshadowed by speculation of a rift within the club hierarchy, said: "I have to study formations with 10 and nine players because when this happens so regularly, you must be worried.

"After Gary Cahill's red card, we lost composure and conceded three goals. We have to improve in this respect and we must pay attention to think there is the rest of the game to do our best. Today, I saw two faces, one negative in the first half and one positive in the second."

Cahill received a straight red card in the 14th minute for a studs-up challenge on Burnley's Steven Defour, prompting a first-half collapse.

Goals from Sam Vokes (two) and Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Ward putting the Turf Moor side three up at the break.

Burnley won away from home only once last season so Sean Dyche was delighted as the Turf Moor side withstood a Chelsea comeback before Fabregas' late dismissal for a second yellow card.

After Arsenal's thrilling 4-3 opening win against 2016 champions Leicester City, Liverpool and Watford fought out a pulsating 3-3 draw at Vicarage Road with the Hornets' Miguel Britos scoring an injury-time equaliser that looked suspiciously offside.

Huddersfield marked their first game in the top flight in 45 years with a resounding 3-0 victory at Crystal palace. Their reward? To lead the top-flight table for the first time in more than 70 years, ahead of Manchester City who defeated Brighton 2-0 in the evening kick-off.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will make a second bid for Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater as they attempt to make at least three new signings before the transfer window shuts.

Leicester have already rejected one offer of around £15m, but Chelsea are preparing a second bid likely to be worth over £25m for the 27-year-old. It is understood Drinkwater is interested in a move to Chelsea, even though he may find himself behind N'Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas in Conte's pecking order.

But Leicester could put up a fight for Drinkwater and demand more, knowing that Chelsea pocketed £40m from Manchester United for Nemanja Matic. The departure of the Serbian has left Conte short of options in the middle of the park as he plots how to combine Chelsea's Premier League title defence with a return to the Champions League.

He considered trying to sign Drinkwater along with Kante last summer and have retained an interest ever since. Drinkwater would boost Chelsea's home-grown quota, which has been reduced by the departures of John Terry, Asmir Begovic and several youngsters.

Conte has made no secret of the fact he thinks the Chelsea squad is too thin to cope with the demands of the Premier League and Champions League. He wants at least one new wing-back and a forward. Chelsea are also considering a bid for central defender Virgil van Dijk, who has asked to leave Southampton and who is wanted by Liverpool.

The Blues have expressed an interest in right-backs Joao Cancelo and Serge Aurier, who are expected to leave Valencia and Paris Saint-Germain. But Juventus have so far held firm in the determination to keep left-back Alex Sandro, despite Chelsea expressing a willingness to pay £60m for the Brazilian.

Drinkwater missed Leicester's Premier League defeat at Arsenal on Friday night through injury and Matty James stepped in to deputise, proving he would be a more than adequate replacement for Drinkwater.

Drinkwater joined the Foxes in 2012 and he signed a five-year contract with the club last summer, following the club's amazing Premier League title success. But, having seen Kante successfully make the move from Leicester to Chelsea and get even better, Drinkwater would like to test himself at a higher level.

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