Chelsea’s hard fought win over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday was slightly marred by the speculation that Antonio Conte’s team might be on the verge of a points deduction following their involvement in a brawl at Manchester City last weekend.
During the post match press conference at Stamford Bridge, the Italian manager reacted furiously to speculation that Chelsea might lose points because their players had failed to control themselves in the brawl at the Etihad Stadium. According to The Guardian, Conte called these possible sanctions a “joke,” and insisted that Chelsea should avoid punishment because it was Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero’s wild tackle on David Luiz that provoked the mass fight. In the ensuing violence after the coming together, both Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho of Manchester City were sent off.
After it was suggested that Chelsea might be deducted points because of the incident, Antonio Conte was incredulous.
“For me, if you are involved in a situation where you are not at fault, why must you pay? Why? I don’t understand this. At the end of the Manchester City game, my players tried to keep their calm. It would be a joke [if the FA imposed such a punishment on his club]. You must be honest and understand which team is at fault.
“We are trying to improve all aspects, and also this. We had a bad record in the past, but now we are different. I don’t know what happened in the past. I know what is happening in the present, and that is why I ask if this is a joke or not. After the game between City and Chelsea, you could see very clearly that my players tried to keep their calm.”
The problem for Antonio Conte is that this isn’t the first time that Chelsea have been embroiled in such a physical dispute. In fact, it’s actually the sixth time in just 19 months that Chelsea have been charged by the English Football Association of failing to control their players. These incidents occurred against Everton in February, 2015, Arsenal in September, 2015, West Ham in October, 2015, West Brom in January, 2016, and then against Tottenham in May, 2016.
Following Chelsea players’ altercations against Tottenham back in May, the Football Association’s independent disciplinary commission insisted that the club’s repeated breaches of these rules was “abysmal.” As well as fining them close to $500,000 (£375,000) the panel also insisted that they would consider deducting points off Chelsea in the near future if their players continued to repeatedly lose their composure. The commission insisted, “The time cannot be too far distant when a commission concludes the only proper sanction is a points deduction.”
Antonio Conte feels particularly aggrieved about this speculation because all five previous charges have come when Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink were managers of Chelsea. Conte, who was only appointed Chelsea manager in the summer, also feels that his players were merely reacting to protect David Luiz after Sergio Aguero’s wild and reckless challenge, and that it’s Manchester City that were to blame for the fracas.
Meanwhile Antonio Conte can calm himself with the fact that his Chelsea side are now sitting at the top of the Premier League table, three points clear of their closest challengers, Arsenal. Diego Costa’s goal in the 75th minute proved to be the difference on Sunday against a stubborn and resolute West Bromwich Albion side that defended strongly, before Costa was able to wrestle the ball of their defense and expertly finish past Ben Foster.
It was Chelsea’s ninth successive win, and they now have eminently winnable games against Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Stoke City over the Christmas period where they can extend their lead.
[Featured Image by Julian Finney/Getty Images]