Chelsea

Conte’s Chelsea Discipline Crisis

 • by Nick Callow
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First, we had all the talk of unrest at Chelsea as a mixed transfer window led to reports of manager Antonio Conte being unsettled.

The Italian quashed those rumours successfully, but now he is facing further external pressure due to a lack of discipline in the ranks which could cost his side dear as they attempt to defend the Premier League title.

David Luiz received Chelsea’s third red card of the season when he was sent off for a horrific over the top challenge on Arsenal’s Sead Kolasinac in a match the Blues were ultimately fortunate to escape with a draw.

Now they have to play without one of their key players in one of their busiest run of fixtures of the season.

Chelsea got away with it against Arsenal as the red card came so late in the match they only had a few minutes to hang on for.

But it was the double dismissal of Gary Cahill and Cesc Fàbregas against Burnley on the opening weekend of the season that ultimately led to their shock defeat.

Conte insists his players have been unlucky and he knows from his time as a player that runs of red cards can happen to a side.

But they have now had five red cards in their last eight matches when their previous two games against Arsenal – the FA Cup Final and Community Shield – are taken into account.

To put this in context, they have had as many players sent off in their last five matches as they had in their previous 73 Premier League games.

The lack of discipline shown by Luiz is not something Chelsea can afford to continue as it will cost them points, as it did against Burnley and could have done against Arsenal.

There were reports they could be docked points after last season’s brawl with title rivals Manchester City, a side they face on the last weekend of September – without Brazilian Luiz of course.

Before that they have potentially volatile fixtures against Stoke and Atlético Madrid, where Conte will want and need to finish with 11 men on the pitch.

That is something he pleaded for ahead of the London derby with The Gunners, but they have now failed to do so in three successive matches against Arsenal.

And there is every chance they could have been pressing for a late, late winner against Arsène Wenger’s side with 11 men going into the end of their latest encounter and not have dropped two precious points.

Conte is brushing the stats aside by claiming his players have been unlucky with refereeing decisions and not badly behaved. Maybe he did not see that Luiz challenge properly.

He said: “I was a player and this type of period can happen when you are not so lucky and receive red cards, but I think we have to try to improve the physical situation.

“Then we try to pay more attention in the future and I hope to be more lucky with the referees’ decisions – sometimes our opponents have deserved red cards and they played on with 11 men.

“Do I think we are bad now? It is a strange situation but we have to improve in some situations and we hope to be more lucky.”

It is unlike Conte to criticise referees, but bizarre that he should defend his players showing a consistent lack of discipline.

Chelsea are by far and away the least disciplined side this season in terms of red and yellow cards after the fifth round of Premier League matches this season.

They have a hugely talented squad that can cope with players being suspended and Luiz can be covered by either Antonio Rüdiger or Andreas Christensen.

But it is a risky game to keep shuffling men at the back as all good title-winning sides are usually built on a well-oiled settled defence.

This is how last season’s Premier League Fairplay Table ended, with Chelsea the seventh best-behaved club…

Yellows-Reds-Points

1  Liverpool: 54 0 216

2  Swansea City: 56 0 224

3  Bournemouth: 52 3 240

4  Tottenham Hotspur: 62 0 248

5  Southampton 59 2 256

6  Burnley: 65 2 282

7  Chelsea: 72 0 288

8  Leicester City: 72 1 300

9  Stoke City: 70 2 302

10 Crystal Palace: 77 0 308

11  Everton: 72 2 308

12  Arsenal: 68 3 308

13  Hull City: 67 5 310

14  Middlesbrough: 77 1 318

15  West Brom: 80 0 320

16  Manchester City: 71 4 332

17  Manchester United: 78 2 334

18  West Ham: 78 5 352

19  Sunderland: 78 4 354

20 Watford: 84 5 388

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