Arresting a slump of one point from three games at a Hull side that has over-achieved to date following a summer of disarray is hardly one of the more impressive results of Conte’s career.
But it was the manner in which he achieved it that was more noteworthy as the Italian adopted a three-man defence and left out Branislav Ivanovic, for the first time since the Andre Villas-Boas era.
Conte also opted to hand Victor Moses his first league start for Chelsea in over three-and-a-half years as a right wing-back, a large tactical gamble but one which paid off as his team simply swamped and swept aside Hull in the second half, scoring counter-attack goals through Willian and Diego Costa.
Conte also had time to demonstrate that his reputation as a demanding disciplinarian is also well merited, responding to his team’s second goal by barking at his players to ensure they kept a clean sheet for just the second time this season.
“Obviously we work for this and it’s always nice not to concede goals,” said defender Cesar Azpilicueta, who switched from full-back to join David Luiz and Gary Cahill at centre-back.
“In the last month we have been conceding too many goals and this is bad for the whole team.
“The manager is always trying to find the best solution for the team for the game and this week we have been working on the system.
“Personally training in this position, I am happy always to help the team wherever the manager needs me and when you win it means that the training and the whole week we have done worked for the result.”
Chelsea had employed the three centre-back system in the second half of the recent 3-0 humbling against Arsenal, but then purely as an exercise in damage limitation.
Here, admittedly against more modest opposition, it looked a far more comfortable formation for the players at Conte’s disposal, especially with John Terry facing an extended spell on the sidelines.
The performance certainly left Conte optimistic that the tide is turning at the west London club.
“When you finish with a clean sheet, after you conceded in the last four games two or three goals, it is important because we needed to find more confidence in this aspect,” he said.
“We must continue to work because we know that to change the past, we need to work a lot.
“We need to work together. To understand that there is a route to improve and then to play the game against Liverpool, Arsenal, City, United, or Tottenham in another aspect.”
Hull City had also been beaten by Liverpool and Arsenal in their previous two outings and the test against Chelsea was the latest in a sequence of matches against the division’s elite sides.
The Tigers put up an admirable fight in the first half and might even have been ahead, had Thibaut Courtois not saved well to deny Robert Snodgrass and Ryan Mason.
City’s priority must surely be addressing matters off the field. Phelan is eager to sign a contract to become permanent manager at the KCOM Stadium but says the terms of the deal he has been offered have “fluctuated”.
“It’s a situation where things just need to be ironed out,” said Phelan.
“I think I’ve been put on trial, I think I’ve been put in the mix where can I or can’t I do the job.
“I think I’ve shown that I’m capable, that the players have responded well.
“The terms will always be private but they’ve fluctuated so I want to know what’s going on, where I sit, what I can and can’t do — all those questions need answering.
“And when you think you’re there, which I did — I thought it was all sorted — it changed. I wanted to know why and I still need to know that.”
Marshall 8; Meyler 6; Livermore 6, Davies 7, Robertson 6; Clucas 7 (Huddlestone 80, 6); Snodgrass 7, Henriksen 5 (Hernandez 71, 5), Mason 7, Diomande 5 (Maloney 62, 5); Mbokani Bezua 5.
Maguire, Jakupovic, Weir, Keane.
Courtois 7; Azpilicueta 7, David Luiz 6, Cahill 6; Moses 7 (Pedro 83, 6), Kante 7, Matic 7, Alonso 7; Hazard 7 (Oscar 80, 6), Willian 8 (Chalobah 89, 6); Diego Costa 9.
Begovic, Ivanovic, Fabregas, Batshuayi
Anthony Taylor 7