The Chelsea players could wait no longer to celebrate, having been made wait long enough for Michy Batshuayi’s title-winning goal.
At close to midnight and after 13 and a half minutes of Antonio Conte’s celebratory press conference at the Hawthorns, David Luiz and Diego Costa barged their way into the media room overlooking the pitch where they had just claimed a title-winning 1-0 victory over West Brom, and literally bundled their manager out of the room. “No more, no more!” they cried at the journalists. They had a lot more celebrating to do.
The celebrating they had done already was of course one big reason why Conte was so late in, given that he was forced to change out of his now-ruined suit.
“They waited for me after the celebrations with the fans, and put champagne and beer on me,” the Italian laughed. “I think I have to change my suit because my suit is a disaster now. I’m wearing the tracksuit, but I think I’m living a moment very important. I’m enjoying this moment a lot. When you put a lot of enthusiasm and passion and hours into your work, a lot of time not sleeping for your work, it's right to celebrate and enjoy a moment like this. Enjoy it with the fans, the staff, with the club. It's great. This is a dream come true. For sure, it's a dream.”
The 5 key moments that won Chelsea the title
The 5 key moments that won Chelsea the title
1/5 1. The second half of Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea, 24 September
The biggest defeat of Chelsea’s season, but also one of the biggest reasons they have won the title. It brought an epiphany. The way that Arsenal simply tore at Antonio Conte’s defence to go 3-0 up by half-time made the Italian realise something was fundamentally wrong with his team. There were huge gaps in the team structure, and it looked at that point like there was still a huge gap between Chelsea and even challenging for the title. That instantly changed, because Conte changed the formation. In that second half, he went to a three-at-the-back that had been on his mind but hadn’t yet been tried on a pitch. Chelsea immediately went on that 13-game winning run, never really looking back.
2/5 2. Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United, 23 October
Chelsea had at this point impressively won two games in a row, and looked like they were building, but this match showed there was so much more to it than just a temporary transformation from the change in formation. It showed the quantum leap they had already made. There was of course much more to this match than just winning a big game, too, given that the players were up against their old manager Jose Mourinho just 10 months after he had been sacked following a sensational team collapse in 2015-16. They performed like they had a point to prove, and made an utterly compelling argument from the very start, when Pedro scored after mere seconds. It felt like many ghosts from the previous campaign had been banished, as well as any lingering doubts. They were on another level.
3/5 3. Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea, 3 December
Arguably the Premier League game of the season in terms of excitement, but also the game when Chelsea’s winning run became an exhilarating title surge; when momentum really picked up - and that despite City doing so much to try and stop it. This was just another case of turning a negative into a positive, as they completely turned a game. Determined to get their top spot back, Pep Guardiola’s City absolutely battered Chelsea in the first half, and could have been out of sight. Conte’s side just about held firm despite Gary Cahill’s own goal, though, tightened up at half-time and then responded with a series of rapid attacks City simply couldn’t handle. Really, it was the response of champions, and the moment when Chelsea properly emerged as the obvious next champions. That’s how significant the win felt. That’s how much confidence Conte said they gleaned from it.
4/5 4. Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea, 14 January
If the defeat at Arsenal was a defining moment for Conte’s tactics, this win at the former champions was the defining moment in terms of everything else to do with the team. Sure, the final score may make it look elementary, but the week had been anything but. It was maybe the most challenging. Chelsea’s 13-game winning streak had just come ended at Tottenham and their top scorer's Blues career was coming to an end, after Diego Costa got into an altercation at training following speculation he might be on the move to China. It really looked like it could all cave in, when Chelsea would lose their edge, and their nerve. Instead, it brought more progress. The team killed Leicester 3-0 thanks to two goals from Marcos Alonso and one from Pedro, before Conte completely killed the controversy by stonewalling it in his press conference. It sent a statement to Costa to get back in line, and a statement to the rest of the Premier League that there was so much more to this team than one scorer.
5/5 5. Chelsea 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur, 22 April
This may have been an FA Cup semi-final, but it was one with a significance far beyond making the final. It was really the final test in the title race, a referendum on which of the two sides was actually better. That may seem ridiculous now, but that was very much the feel that of week. A stuttering Chelsea had been resoundingly beaten 2-0 at Manchester United, allowing a surging Spurs to cut the lead to four points. It seemed like it was all only going in one direction, but that a Tottenham win could completely divert the destination of the title. There was instead only ever one winner. Conte’s side simply cut Spurs' legs away. Every time Tottenham responded, Chelsea just showed they had that bit more, they were that bit better. The impressive high quality of the two clinching goals from Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic only emphasised it all. It was the story of the season. Every setback only brought another surge.
Conte revealed he had been enjoying it so much that he got a fat lip celebrating. It probably didn’t hurt anywhere near as much September’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, the match he then cited as the “key moment” in this title win, because of how it made him realise the need to drastically change things; to go to three at the back and then get three points after three points.
It was its illustrative of the mindset that has driven Chelsea to the title this season. Even in a moment of celebration and fun, Conte instantly got focused when talking about the mechanics of the sport.
“I found the strength to change, and take the responsibility to change system and find a new approach for these players. That was the key moment for us.
“Honestly… to find the right solution was not easy, so above all for this I want to thank my players because they trusted in a new work, a new philosophy of football, in the video analysis to see their mistakes and positive and negative situations. I think this result is for this attitude, this behaviour of my players. Every single manager can have a good idea of football, but if you don't have the players behind you, it's impossible to reach targets like this.”
If Conte was suddenly serious talking about that, he was much jokier when discussing one of the key moments of the night: the decision to introduce a player who barely featured in Michy Batshuayi, who then scored the key goal.
“My substitutions were very good!” he laughed again, before praising Batshuayi. “I must be pleased, above all, for him. We all know the season, the difficulty he found in this first season for him. It's not easy to play in this league. I think this league is very strong. This league is fantastic to play in and be a manager in. For him, I'm pleased because he scored two goals this season. These goals were very important for him and for us.
“Michy repaid me a lot for this choice. Willian was also very good. It means I trust in my squad. We have had three competitions this season – league, FA Cup and League Cup – and for this reason I think some players didn't find a lot of space [to play]. But they worked very hard and, today, Michy is a great example. I'm very happy for him. To score an important goal in the Premier League is very important for him.”
Conte had just begun to talk about the message he had received from Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo and whether he’d spoken to owner Roman Abramovich, when Luiz and Costa decided to take control of his press conference.
Having finally finished the job, the party was just getting started.Reuse content