LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hailed his transformed team on Saturday, saying they were completely different from the side that lost to the same Arsenal opponents last September.
The buoyant Premier League leaders tore Arsenal apart on Saturday, winning 3-1 to expunge memories of their 3-0 drubbing at The Emirates last year and move 12 points ahead of them.
A change of system to 3-4-3 helped the side find rhythm, width and space but Conte said his side had changed in attitude and spirit from the one that had languished eighth in the table.
“Now we are not that team. We are the same 11 players,” the Italian told reporters. “But I remember also my work.”
Conte said he had told the players that they had to realise that were not a great team just because they played for a big club. They had to show their talent on the pitch.
“We totally changed the spirit, the will to fight together to be a team to work together to be fantastic - sure we are a different team,” he said.
Chelsea have won 16 of their 18 Premier League games since that Arsenal defeat.
As measured and quietly spoken off the pitch as he is animated on it, Conte cautioned against believing his side had already won the Premier League.
“There are 14 games to play and there are 42 points to take,” he said.
“For sure today it was important to win against a rival for the title and you must exploit it when you have this sort of situation.”
Conte said there were enough experienced players in the squad to help keep a balanced attitude and focus.
”I don’t want my players to slip,“ he said. ”They know that until now we haven’t won the title. It’s important to know this and to keep our antennae very high because in my career I won a lot but I lost a lot.
“When you lose three finals of Champions League and you win only one, you have a great hunger,” he added.
“For this reason I think I have a bit of experience to manage this situation.”
Editing by Ed Osmond