It was certainly what we needed — and a wise move by Conte.
Up to then, we looked out of sorts. I get that we are not going to play beautiful and expansive football every game, but I thought given some of the results this weekend our lot would be champing at the bit to put a bit more daylight between us and the chasing pack.
Instead, we were served up a frustrating display that doesn’t fill me with confidence.
I’m not sure really what to make of the recent Costa stories.
When he scored yesterday, his celebration seemed to make reference to people talking too much about things they do not necessarily know anything about.
Conte, and each player asked about the stories, has denied any argument happened, denied that Costa threatened to go to China and denied that anything of any note happened at all. But then they would say that, wouldn’t they?
Something probably did happen. But these things must happen all the time at every club in every country.
The important thing is how they are managed. Chelsea, more than perhaps any other side in recent times, has suffered from player power — this was perhaps Conte’s first experience of something that could quite quickly develop.
Of course, we don’t know how things played out exactly, but we do know that Costa is back in the side, scoring and doesn’t look as if he is going anywhere any time soon.
Things may change at the end of the season, but Conte can only concentrate on the here and now. And I imagine that Abramovich too will not allow another season of ‘palpable discord’.
He has been our owner and benefactor for 14 years now — still not bored, by the way — and he will have learnt some things along the way.
Hopefully, he can see that he has struck gold with Conte. The Italian is obviously very personable and a decent guy but there is also a steely edge to him.
The comparison between him and Mourinho is an interesting one.
Both can be considered inspirational managers — both are brilliant, passionate and hugely competitive — but their methods seem to differ dramatically.
I don’t think we would ever see Conte humiliate a player publicly as Mourinho has done in the past. Conte has, throughout his career, often identified players overlooked or on the fringes and shown belief and invested time in them.
This demonstrates to the whole squad that everyone could be in contention if they work hard and buy into the manager’s ethos.
All the players have said that Conte is easy to talk to, that he discusses decisions with them and he is very approachable — this could not have been said of Mourinho during our annus horribilis. Conte has benefited from playing for some big time managers — the likes of Lippi, Trapattoni, Sacchi — he knows how players react to managers. I am not saying that Conte is necessarily a better manager than Mourinho but that issues may not escalate as they did with a manager who has played the game at the highest level as opposed to one who hasn’t.
But Conte too has high expectations. In a recent interview, he said, without a hint of humour, he would rather ‘kill’ a player than have a poor attitude in his squad. It’s refreshing to hear a manager with such a clear message.
There are no trophies handed out in January and Conte knows that more than anyone, so no one is counting any chickens just yet. But the immediate future is looking good and I think we all know that with Conte we are in a safe pair of hands.