Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli jumps to score his and the team’s second goal against Chelsea during their English Premier League match at White Hart Lane in London on Wednesday.
Even after Chelsea’s 13-match winning run ended, Antonio Conte found something to laugh about.
In the three months since Chelsea adopted the 3-4-3 formation Conte favored in Italy, the team has powered to the top of the English Premier League.
So Conte was bemused by the suggestion he might consider abandoning the three-man defense that was penetrated so easily by Tottenham in Wednesday’s 0-2 loss but had previously been serving Chelsea so well.
“We found a good balance with this formation and we continue with it,” Conte told reporters at White Hart Lane. “But it’s very strange you ask me after a defeat after 13 wins in a row if I’m thinking of changing the formation. I am seeing that to stop us other teams are changing the formation.”
Tottenham did just that; adopting a three-man defense and successfully impeding Chelsea, particularly Diego Costa. The league’s top scorer has only failed to score in three of Chelsea’s last 10 games, including both league meetings with Spurs.
Costa’s 14 goals have helped Chelsea to establish a lead at the summit over Liverpool that remains at five points.
Identical goals were the undoing of Chelsea, which couldn’t contain the aerial threat posed by Dele Alli either side of halftime. On both occasions, Kyle Walker released Christian Eriksen on the right flank and crosses were delivered into the penalty area where Alli rose between Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta to head into the net.
Azpilicueta was the only one of the trio of center halves close to Alli, with Gary Cahill and David Luiz committed elsewhere.
Chelsea has conceded four goals in two games — more than in its preceding 12 games.
“It’s normal to work in one system, one formation,” said Conte, the former Italy and Juventus coach halfway through his first season in England. “When you change a lot and use a different system it means you don’t work a lot with this formation. Every day you try to improve your system and try to provide different solutions.”
Conte first adopted a three-man defense during his last trip to north London in September when Chelsea was trailing 0-3 at halftime to Arsenal, while also reeling from a loss to Liverpool in its previous league game.
The tactical tweak stemmed the flow of goals in the second half at Arsenal. Chelsea responded to the Arsenal loss by going on the 13-match winning run that Tottenham ended.