Chelsea manager Antonio Conte joked he is struggling to find ways to improve N’Golo Kante after the France midfielder starred in his side’s 2-1 win at West Ham United.
Kante’s interception laid the foundation stone for Eden Hazard’s 25th-minute opener at London Stadium on Monday and he harried his opponents from first minute to last.
Asked to sum up Kante’s display, Conte complained the former Leicester City midfielder had only completed 45 of the 50 passes he had attempted, only to then burst out laughing.
“I know that he made 50 passes and he made five mistakes. He has to improve on this,” said Conte, whose side re-established their 10-point lead at the top of the table.
“I’m joking, yes. I have to find one situation to tell him to improve. He’s playing very well. N’Golo is a really good player.
“He has great stamina, but also good quality. We are working to improve the quality. I’m pleased for him, but I think all my players played very well.”
Hazard put Chelsea ahead midway through the first half, coolly finishing off a razor-sharp break involving Pedro that started when Mark Noble gifted the ball to Kante.
Diego Costa added a second goal early in the second half, kneeing the ball in from close range after Cesc Fabregas’s corner had flicked off West Ham midfielder Pedro Obiang’s head at the near post.
But Chelsea did not have things all their own way and had to weather sustained pressure from their hosts at the start and mid-way through the second half.
Chelsea had seen Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City chip away at their lead over the weekend and Conte said their display against West Ham demonstrated their mental fortitude.
“I think this period is tough because although there are only 11 games, for me 11 games are a lot,” said the Italian, a three-time Serie A champion as a manager with Juventus.
“Now in this period it’s very important to live the pressure in the right way. Above all when you play the game after you know your opponents won the day before.
“I’m pleased for the commitment, for the right mentality of my players. Very focused.
“They showed me great will to win the game and to suffer in the first part of the first half, but stay compact because we didn’t concede great chances for West Ham to score.”