Antonio Conte defended his decision to play without a recognised striker after Chelsea were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at Everton.
Conte’s Premier League champions were without Alvaro Morata through suspension and, as was the case during the Spain international’s recent injury absence, Conte fielded Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian to lead his attack.
Specialist centre-forward Michy Batshuayi again resided on the bench until the 71st minute of a contest where Chelsea were unable to turn extend periods of dominance – and 25 shots – into three points.
“I think there is nothing to explain why I decide to [play] with Hazard, Willian, Pedro. It is not the first time.” Conte told a news conference afterwards.
“I have to make the best decision for my team and today I made the best decision.
“It is very important to keep the balance during the game. Don’t forget our striker Morata was out and I think this player is very important for us, but at the same time we played with second options, with three number 10s – Willian, Pedro, Hazard – and we created many chances.
“You must be more clinical. I understand if you draw a game without dominating, without risk to lose the game. This is football. The most important thing to play football this way and force your opponent to defend.”
Conte added that the familiar sight of Belgium international Batshuayi being omitted was not a slight on his qualities.
“Don’t forget Michy started many games at the start of the season and then he had an injury. He is coming back from an injury,” the former Juventus boss said.
“He played against Bournemouth for 75 minutes. We tried to do our best. Sometimes it is enough and sometimes you find this kind of situation. It is a pity to drop two points against Everton.”
Everton remain unbeaten in six matches under Sam Allardyce and the former England boss cut a satisfied figure.
“We scrapped it out, we dug it out and battled it out, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“Defensively you can’t knock the team whatsoever in terms of the effort, commitment and organisation to keep such a talented side at bay.”