Antonio Conte: I feel like I played with Chelsea players

Premier League

Antonio Conte says reuniting Chelsea’s fractured team spirit was the key to their charge to the Premier League title.

Conte’s side were crowned champions on Friday as a 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion wrapped up the title with two games to play.

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates with Pedro, N'Golo Kante and David Luiz after winning the Premier League title. Photo: Carl Recine, Action Images via ReutersChelsea manager Antonio Conte is thrown in the air by his players. Photo: Carl Recine, Action Images via ReutersMichy Batshuayi scores the only goal of the game. Photo: Carl Recine, Action Images via Reuters

Michy Batshuayi’s 82nd-minute winner after coming off the bench was the latest example of Conte’s remarkable impact since the Italian took charge last year.

When Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge, he found a squad ripped apart following the mutiny that led to Jose Mourinho’s sacking last season. But the former Juventus and Italy boss skilfully soothed the fragile egos, and has been repaid with a memorable march to the title.

“It wasn’t easy for me to arrive in England and try different habits, a different language and inherit players after a bad season,” Conte said. “This is a great achievement for the players. I thank them for their commitment and work-rate.

“They show me a great attitude to try to do something great this season.”

Conte’s midas touch was most evident in his switch to a three-man defensive formation following defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal in September.

“That decision changed our season. We had to change and find a new suit for our team. In my mind, there was this option to play a 3-4-3 because I knew I had the players to do that,” Conte said.

Chelsea reeled off 13 successive wins after the change and, despite a brief wobble with defeats against Crystal Palace and Manchester United, they coasted to the title in a no-nonsense style befitting their intense boss.

The respect Conte is held in by his players was clear to see as each one of them hugged him after the final whistle at The Hawthorns before joining together to throw him into the air in a joyous scene in front of Chelsea’s supporters.

“Every game I feel like I have played with my players. I show my passion and my will, my desire to stay with my players in every moment of the game. This is me,” Conte said. “In the present, in the past, I stay with my players in positive and negative situations. We won this title together.”

All that’s left for Conte now is to top off his incredible debut season by winning the FA Cup final against Arsenal to clinch the double in two weeks’ time.

“We were not lucky, we did a great job. It’s important to rest. It is a great season, but now we can win the FA Cup,” he said.

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