Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte has defended his decision to play Eden Hazard as false 9 in place of suspended Alvaro Morata against Everton on Saturday.
Antonio Conte defended his decision to use Eden Hazard as his attacking focal point rather than a natural striker after seeing his Chelsea side draw a blank against a dogged Everton side at Goodison Park.
Even though Conte could not call upon the suspended Alvaro Morata for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, he chose not to field the Spaniard’s back-up Michy Batshuayi and instead deployed playmaker Hazard alongside Willian and Pedro in a front three.
The visitors dominated from first minute to last but failed to find a breakthrough against Sam Allardyce’s resolute hosts, who defended deep and ended the afternoon with their fourth clean sheet in six games.
Tiemoue Bakayoko and Willian were both denied early on by Phil Jagielka, who cleared two quick-fire efforts from the pair off the line. Chelsea tried to create more chances of the same quality but the closest they came during the rest of 90 minutes was when Everton’s Ashley Williams headed the ball against his own crossbar.
After the final whistle, Conte claimed his side had done enough to deserve victory on the day and explained his decision to leave out Batshuayi, who was eventually introduced as a 71st-minute substitute.
“I think there is nothing to explain why I decide to bring in Hazard, Willian, Pedro,” the Chelsea manager said. “It is not the first time. I have to make the best decision for my team and today I made the best decision.
“If you ask me if there was balance in our team, I answer you that today we played without our striker but in this season we played many times in this way. Don’t forget Michy started many games at the start of the season and then he had an injury. He is coming back from an injury. He played against Bournemouth for 75 minutes.”
Conte added: “We tried to do our best. Sometimes it is enough and sometimes you find this kind of situation. It is a pity to drop two points against Everton.”
While admitting he was “disappointed” to have only drawn on the day, the Italian nevertheless conceded that Everton’s defence had performed admirably to earn another clean sheet for Allardyce.
“I think when you play this type of game, you dominate the game with possession, we shoot 26 times, only eight on target, with the crossbar, the defender saving the ball on the line, for sure we must be disappointed,” Conte said.
“This type of game, we deserve to win. I guess after the top six, I consider Everton the best team in this league. They played in this way with great personality and with this intensity, with great concentration because they defended very deep.
“The defender must pay great attention to the counter-attack and I think the defenders played very well but it is a pity, I think we played very well, a very good performance another clean sheet but if you want to win this game you must score and must be more clinical.”