Tottenham Hotspur somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of both defeat and the draw monster last Saturday against West Ham United to remain unbeaten in the Premier League. While Spurs still sit fifth on the table, only four points separate the entire top five clubs. Sitting at the top of the logjam are our West London neighbors, Chelsea. After a tumultuous 2015-16 campaign, the Blues appear to have righted the ship and are back to being a dangerous team. Ahead of Saturday’s match, I sat down with Dávid Pásztor from our sister SBN blog, We Ain’t Got No History, where we talk about the difference under Conte, whether or not the title is the only goal, and if Jose Mourinho can actually steal souls.
CFC: So Chelsea are at the top of the table. This time last year, they were in the Top Gun flat spin that they never pulled out of, and Jose Mourinho ended up being the Goose in this equation that bit the dust. Is it Antonio Conte being a really good coach, or is it more that Jose Mourinho ran out of souls to steal and lost his power?
Mourinho's probably a bit more Maverick these days, his ego writing checks his body can't cash, but his goose certainly was cooked after dropping Chelsea to within a point of the relegation zone. Fortunately, we had the real Mother Guus come in for a second time as well, and as he will no doubt tell any and all who will listen until his dying days, he saved us from relegation.
Conte has talked the talk and walked the walk and has already proven to be a top quality coach in the truest sense (i.e. making players better). It'd be foolish to expect any manager to last too long at Chelsea (or most other clubs), but Conte's brought a real sense of long-term hope and positive change to the team, on and off the pitch.
(Author’s note: It’s a shame you’re a Chelsea fan, because these puns and references are amazing.)
After last year's subpar finish that saw Chelsea fail to qualify for Europe, is anything less than a league title a disappoint this season?
The stated aim at the start of the season was top four and Champions League, and I think we'd still be happy with that.
We're not exactly big fans of Diego Costa, much like the rest of the league. How does he somehow manage to stay on the pitch seemingly every match and get away with his antics?
Much like NASA's Impossible Space Engine, science is not ready to answer every question just yet. I'm thus assuming the answer in both cases is magic.
Stop me if you've heard this story before. Spurs had targeted Michy Batshuayi in the summer and, ultimately, ended up at Chelsea. He's played a total of 75 minutes. What's going on and why do you do this to us?
Blame Costa. (Seriously, Costa's been too good, so Bats has only played serious minutes in the League Cup, which is now over for us.)
I hope you realize just how lucky you are to have Eden Hazard. You know this, right?
What's been the biggest positive that Antonio Conte has brought to Stamford Bridge?
Above all, the biggest positive change has been that for the first time in a long time, we've been able to concentrate purely on the football and none of the side shenanigans.
Speaking of Stamford Bridge, how goes the plans to renovate Stamford Bridge and where are Chelsea going to be playing while it goes through renovations?
The second part of the question remains unanswered because the answer to the first part is basically a big ol' shrug. Work was supposed to begin this season already, but everything's been delayed for one reason or another, with more documentation, planning, and consultations required before the local council approves everything. To illustrate: one of things that has delayed the process was failing to properly account for the impact on the local bat population in the cemetery next door. As far as we can tell, everything's been pushed back at least a year until next summer.
What's the expected lineup and formation from Chelsea on Saturday?
Barring injuries or other unforeseen events, we'll be in the 3-4-3 with the same exact lineup as the previous five Premier League games. Conte has shown a willingness to change things up when they aren't working, but also a preference to not change things when they are working.
How about a prediction?
1-0 to the good guys, with Diego Costa grabbing a Costa-hattrick (scoring a goal, getting a yellow card, causing controversy).
We’d like to thank Dávid for sitting down with us ahead of Saturday’s match. I did the same for him over at We Ain’t Got No History, so feel free to check out their “View from the Enemy” column when you get the chance.