Antonio Conte has revealed why he hauled Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas off during Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Leicester City.
Conte said this was because they were both “very, very tired.”
Chelsea laboured to a goalless draw against Claude Puel’s side at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to mark a first time in history the club have drawn three straight games 0-0 in all competitions.
Conte reacted to Chelsea’s struggles to score by replacing Hazard and Fabregas in the 58th minute with Willian and Pedro as the Italian switched from a 3-5-2 formation to a 3-4-3.
The substitutions injected Chelsea with energy going forward but, after failing to breach Leicester’s defence, Conte admitted his players were tired following their recent games against Norwich in the FA Cup and Arsenal in the EFL Cup.
Speaking to reporters at Stamford Bridge, Conte said, “Honestly, I think not to find excuses or alibis, today we paid a lot the effort from Arsenal.”
“To play Wednesday night and then today against a really good team, a team in really good physical form like Leicester, after only two and a half days…We played with almost the same players as against Arsenal.”
“My plan was to play with one team in the FA Cup, and then these two games with almost the same players. But I think, today, I saw a lot of players very tired. Very tired. I think we played with tiredness today.”
Hazard has now been substituted off in his third straight game and, when asked why he chose to sacrifice Chelsea’s talisman, Conte said, “I saw them [Hazard and Fabregas] very, very tired. It was simple.”
Speaking then about his tactical switch to a 3-4-3 formation, Conte said, “We suffered a lot in the first half and at the start of the second half.”
“Then when I decided to put fresh energy on, the game changed. We tried to create chances, to score, and we are not suffering defensively. We tried to win the game. But at the end I think the result was fair.”
“I’m doing more rotations. Against Norwich I made nine changes. Against Arsenal maybe 10 changes. I thought that two games, after two and a half days, for the same players was normal to recover.”
“But we have to consider that, in this period, to face all competitions is not simple. You must have a big squad to do this, otherwise I have to take risks and to risk losing to Leicester today.”