Chief Football Correspondent
The Daily/Sunday Telegraph
What have you made of Chelsea this season?
Jason: “Antonio Conte has gone in there and picked up a team where morale was pretty low after last season, they really needed someone to go in there and get hold of it and what Conte has done is give them a bit of belief back. He’s also given them a bit of structure and, like Mauricio Pochettino, he has a clear vision of what he wants to do. He’s extremely meticulous and backs every decision up with data and analysis. He’s a training ground manager, organising the team and working hard on the players’ fitness. A big thing is that Diego Costa is back on track, looking lean and hungry again. They signed Michy Batshuayi to put pressure on Costa and that’s what he needed, someone actively after his place. The key players are starting to respond and the feeling is that Chelsea are back on track."
Below: Antonio Conte and Diego Costa
A lot has been made of the change of system to a 3-4-3 - what have you made of that?
Jason: “It’s the key thing that has made the big difference. They were 3-0 down at Arsenal, playing poorly and Conte realised it wasn’t working. Everyone thought he would adopt a 3-4-3 system because he did that at Juventus and Italy but he told us (the media) last week that wasn’t the system he was thinking about using, he came in with a 4-2-4 idea but realised that was too open. He switched it at Arsenal and the two key players in that system are Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses who have played in the wide midfield areas and done extremely well, proving also that he won’t just select players on status, he’ll select players who best fit the system. It’s been psychological with the players as well because they saw the system starting to work, beat Hull, worked on the system during the international break and then when you get the results they have since, they started to believe in this system. What was interesting was that I was at the Middlesbrough game on Sunday and Conte abandoned the system because it wasn’t working and went back to four at the back, to combat Middlesbrough down the flanks.”
Below: Victor Moses
We know all about Costa and Hazard, but who else has impressed?
Jason: “A lot of people thought Nemanja Matic might be on his way out, but what’s been interesting is that Cesc Fabregas has been the one to miss out and Matic is in there alongside N’Golo Kante and made a big difference. Victor Moses has been a revelation. He’s a player who had been around Chelsea for a long time, been out on loan and was asking ‘what do I need to do to get into the team?’ but Conte had a look at him and thought ‘wow, this is a good player’. He has so much energy, he’ll go up and down the pitch and Conte said that he’ll do 70-yard sprints and he needed someone to get up and down like that. Marcus Alonso looked like a last-minute buy - okay, he did well at Fiorentina, but wasn’t so great at Bolton or Sunderland - but he’s very disciplined and plays the role well. David Luiz has also been a revelation in that back three as the middle player. He holds his position and is far more disciplined. It has to be said, all the players have responded well to Conte.”
Below: Nemanja Matic
Final question, how do you think it will go at Stamford Bridge?
Jason: “I must say I think people have been tough on Tottenham. The Champions League campaign has been a disappointment but that happens sometimes with a team going into that competition with a young group of players. I think Mauricio Pochettino has done well to navigate the team through the Premier League campaign so far without the team firing on all cylinders, and with injuries, which have been a problem. He is the sort of manager who, once the team has had a poor result, will work extremely hard to make sure the next one isn’t a poor result. I think it will be a tough match, a physical, intense game. There is a lot of rivalry there. I’m hedging my bets and think it will be a draw.”