LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Chelsea played in white in a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday but it is a coat of many colours that self-styled tailor Antonio Conte has cut into a table-topping outfit.
Conte has transformed a team with only two new players, Marcos Alonso and N‘Golo Kante, from last season’s struggling side who finished 10th in the standings.
“A manager must be tailor to try to find the right fit for your team,” Conte told reporters at Selhurst Park after Chelsea notched up their 11th successive Premier League victory.
He said it was not easy to grasp the characteristics of his players on arrival in London six months ago and needed time to try different formations before settling on the present 3-4-3.
“My players deserve this (success) because every day I see their commitment, the work rate during the training sessions, the will to do something important this season,” the Italian said.
“To win 11 games in a row in this league is not simple,” said Conte, adding that he expected things to get tougher in the remaining 21 matches.
“In this league there are no easy games. Today If you arrive here and don’t have the right concentration, the right focus, then the will to fight, to go into battle with your opponents, you will lose this game for sure,” he said, referring to Palace, who would not have been unworthy of a draw at least.
“The players have great qualities and they are putting these qualities into the team and I think this is Chelsea’s real secret.”
Palace manager Alan Pardew did not disagree with that assessment.
“It was almost a perfect pass they needed to undo us and Costa obviously has the presence to deliver that finish,” said Pardew.
“It was a shame because I thought we did enough in the first half to come in zero-zero.”
Costa struck in the 43rd minute, heading his 13th league goal of the season over stranded goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey from Cesar Azpilicueta’s perfectly weighted chip into the box.
“They’ve got great players and their great players played well today, Chelsea weren’t as brilliant going forward as they have been in other matches but certainly defensively and with the goal they put in some strong performances today,” Pardew said.
Conte added that although he would have preferred not to lose Costa to a one-match suspension after a yellow card at Palace, he would have a chance to look at other options up front against Bournemouth in Chelsea’s next game. (Editing by Ed Osmond)