Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante are working hard to become the Premier League’s most complete midfield duo by learning from each others’ games according to Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
The Spanish midfielder opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge as the hosts secured their first home win of the season by beating Everton 2-0 on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon in West London.
Only Willian created more chances for the Blues than the former Arsenal and Barcelona playmaker who busied himself with the task of trying to win the ball and break up the visitor’s moves when he wasn’t trying to spot gaps with his forward passing.
Conte admitted that he was impressed with the 30-year-old’s performance against the Toffees.
“[Cesc] scored an important goal for us,” said the Italian. “We all know his characteristics. He is a great player. Good technique with the ball. When he have possession with Cesc, you can play very good football.”
Without the ball, he had an impact too. Fabregas made two defensive actions and attempted two tackles in his battle to try and take control of the middle of the pitch – an improving side of his game that has not been lost on his manager.
“He is also trying to improve defensively to be more strong, to try to be more like N’Golo [Kante]. He has to work [at that] but also N’Golo has to work to be a player with the ball like Cesc, which I want!”
If Kante can begin to pull the strings in midfield while Fabregas wins the ball, Chelsea’s opponents could have even more problems to deal with when they face the Blues in the future.
Alvaro Morata was another player who stood out in the win over Everton. The Spaniard set up Fabregas with a knockdown with his head and then scored a headed goal to make it 2-0.
He has now been involved in every Chelsea goal scored at home this season after setting up and then scoring the goals to take his team to the cusp of securing their comeback in a loss that finished 3-2 on the opening weekend of the season.
Conte admitted that while the Spaniard has done well he has a long way to go before he can truly replace Diego Costa and his presence up front.
“It’s not easy for the striker and midfielder to arrive and adapt quickly to our philosophy, above all for the striker,” said the Italian.
“I need them to stay in position, to stay as a point of reference and in order to adapt yourself in our style of football you need a bit of time, but I am pleased for [Morata].”
The former Juventus and Real Madrid striker left the pitch to be replaced by Michy Batshuayi late in the second half and was spotted sitting on the subs bench with an ice pack on his head, although Conte said that he wasn’t injured.
“I saw him a bit tired and I tried to give the opportunity to [Michy] Bastshuayi. [Morata] is in perfect physical condition.”
The 48-year-old was also highly complimentary of Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko who all played a role either in the starting line-up or off the bench: “We are trying to build, to improve this base,” he said.
Hazard fitness Update
On Eden Hazard, Conte admitted that he saw the international break as opportunity to build up the winger’s fitness in spite of concern among some supporters about the half-fit Belgian being risked in a competitive game for his country.
“I had a conversation with Roberto [Martinez]”, said the Italian. “Now could be positive for Eden to go with the national team and have the training session and maybe to have the possibility to play a part of the game with Gibraltar.
“I told Roberto [Martinez] that if I can help him, I’m ready to do so because in my past I was coach of the national team and I know very well that this task is not easy.”
Conte has also spoken to Hazard separately and he confirmed that the Belgian wants to play for his country.
“He is happy to go and stay with the national team,” he added. “He is the captain” – and for Chelsea he could fit the cliche of being like a new signing if he comes back strong after the international break.
“The most important thing is to work very hard to improve and then after the international break to have the possibility of bringing him onto the bench as a new player for Chelsea this season.”