May 12, 2017 / 11:00 PM / 4 months ago

Title in the bag, Conte sets sights on double

Britain Football Soccer - West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League - The Hawthorns - 12/5/17 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Thibaut Courtois celebrate winning the Premier League title Reuters / Dylan Martinez Livepic

LONDON (Reuters) - Antonio Conte spent the immediate aftermath of Chelsea’s title-winning 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Friday being bounced skywards by his players but once back on terra firma his mind was already focusing on the next target -- the double.

In claiming the Premier League title at the first time of asking Conte matched the feat of Chelsea predecessors Jose Mourinho in 2004-05 and Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10.

Ancelotti went on to win the FA Cup as well and one suspects the insatiable Conte will feel a sense of anti-climax if his side do not beat Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on May 27.

“My players show me a great attitude to try to do something great this season,” Conte said after the title triumph.

“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.”

The Italian, winner of three Serie A titles as Juventus manager, has transformed Chelsea from flops to champions in one season with largely the same group of players.

Yet there were moments back in the autumn when things looked in danger of unravelling as defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal threatened to undermine a bright start to the season.

Conte said the drubbing by Arsenal, a game in which he switched to a three-at-the-back system midway through when his side trailed 3-0, was a turning point.

“That decision changed our season. We had to change and find a new suit for our team,” he said.

“In my mind there was this option to play a 3-4-3 because I knew I had the players to do that.”

Britain Football Soccer - West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League - The Hawthorns - 12/5/17 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates with his players after winning the Premier League title Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic

PULIS PRAISE

West Brom manager Tony Pulis was full of praise for Conte -- both for his infectious touchline enthusiasm and his ability to alter the tactics when his approach was going wrong.

“They’re worthy champions alright. They had a poor start, and Conte had to change things,” he said.

”He’s made it his team. Italian teams are tactically organised and well run. He changed their shape and they’ve been superb from that moment onwards.

“He recognised that he had to change it earlier in the season or he might have got changed himself.”

Conte is the only manager in the top flight this term to use all three permitted substitutes in every league game.

He did it again on Friday and once more his touch turned to gold with Belgian misfit Michy Batshuayi, a 76th-minute replacement for Pedro, scoring the goal six minutes later that meant Chelsea’s title party could start in earnest.

“Michy paid me a lot with this change!” Conte said.

”It was great. It wasn’t easy for me to arrive in England and try different habits, a different language and inherit players after a bad season.

“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, I am this.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris

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