Antonio Conte has revealed he is still haunted by Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September, and insists the Premier League title race is far from over even if his team manage to get revenge on the Gunners at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea head into Saturday’s clash nine points clear of Tottenham and Arsenal at the top of the table, and have won 15 of their last 17 Premier League matches since being embarrassed by goals from Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil during a disastrous first half at the Emirates Stadium.
Conte made the bold decision to shift to a 3-4-3 formation for the second half of that game and Chelsea’s new system has transformed them into the best team in the country, but the Italian says the Arsenal defeat has never been far from his thoughts over the past four months.
“This defeat seems far [away], but it’s important to remember the defeat against Arsenal because it was a bad defeat, 3-0 after the first half, and in my mind it’s always present,” Conte told a news conference. “I hope also in the minds of my players.
“Tomorrow this game will be very difficult and I think it’s important to remember the first game against Arsenal. I think a lot of things have changed now. For sure, we are a team [now].
“We want to have a good game tomorrow against Arsenal and try to win. We play at home and we have our fans to push [us] a lot. For these reasons, we want to play a good game, to win, but it will be a really tough game and we must pay great attention.”
Arsenal wasted an opportunity to exploit Chelsea’s draw away at Liverpool by losing at home to Watford on Tuesday, but Conte insists that result is not a true reflection of the challenge his team can expect to face at Stamford Bridge.
“Sometimes the final result doesn’t tell the truth,” Conte said. “If you watch the game, I think Arsenal were unlucky a lot. Watford played a really good game, but Arsenal had a lot of opportunities to score the goal, draw and then win.
“It didn’t happen, but I think they are in good shape, in good form, and that result was a strange result.
“If we win the game, for sure, it’s a good hit for us. To improve our own place in the table, take three points and also to have Arsenal 12 points [away], that’s very good. But tomorrow, I’m sure, it will be a really tough game and we must pay great attention.
“Arsenal beat us already in the first game, and they have the possibility to repeat this in this game. For this reason, we must be focused, stay in great concentration, and have the same anger, the same will to fight and try to win. It’s important. I like to repeat to my players: look at yourselves, not at others.”