Antonio Conte blames fatigue for Chelsea's draw with 10-man Leicester
LONDON -- Antonio Conte believes Chelsea's lacklustre performance at home to 10-man Leicester City was down to tiredness.
Chelsea recorded a third consecutive 0-0 draw against Leicester, who dominated the first half at a stunned Stamford Bridge, registering 12 shots on Thibaut Courtois' goal -- the most of any visiting team in a Premier League match since the 2003-04 season.
But the Foxes directed just one shot on target, failing to make their superiority count.
Conte substituted Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas for Pedro Rodriguez and Willian in the 58th minute and Chelsea took charge after Ben Chilwell was shown a second yellow card for catching Victor Moses on the ankle, but Leicester held on in relative comfort to earn a draw.
A smattering of boos greeted both the half-time and full-time whistles at an exasperated Stamford Bridge, but speaking after the match Conte claimed that his players were still feeling the effects of their exertion against Arsenal in Wednesday's first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal.
"I think honestly, not to find excuses or alibis, today we paid a lot for the effort from Arsenal," Conte said. "To play Wednesday night and then today against a really good team, a team in really good physical form like Leicester, after only two and a half days [is difficult].
"We played with almost the same players as against Arsenal. My plan was to play with one team in the FA Cup, and then these two games with almost the same players. But I think, today, I saw a lot of players very tired. We suffered a lot in the first half and at the start of the second half.
"Then when I decided to put fresh energy on, the game changed. We tried to create chances, to score, and we are not suffering defensively. We tried to win the game. But at the end I think the result was fair."
Asked if fatigue was the reason for taking off Hazard and Fabregas so early, Conte replied: "Yes. I saw them very, very tired. It was simple."
Conte was forced to make one change in the first half when Gary Cahill tweaked his hamstring during a foot race with Jamie Vardy. Andreas Christensen was the man picked to replace him ahead of David Luiz, and after the match Chelsea's head coach dismissed a question about why he had not used the Brazilian.
"David Luiz has recovered from an injury, but I don't think the problem is in defence," he insisted. "David Luiz is a defender, and we don't have problems with the defenders. Every defender is playing very well. Our problem is not that we are conceding goals. Our problem is we are not scoring."
Conte's decision to stick with a more conservative 3-5-2 formation over the 3-4-3 system that propelled Chelsea to the Premier League title last season is attracting growing criticism from supporters, but the Italian is adamant that there is no tactical reason for his team's attacking struggles.
"The first thing I have to find is the right balance," he continued. "At the same time, against Norwich we played 3-4-3 with Pedro, Willian and Batshuayi, but we didn't score. It was the same.
"This is not a problem with the system. In both systems we are conceding less but, with both systems, we are scoring less than last season. We have to try to improve on this aspect. The situation is very clear. We must improve, to shoot from outside [the box], and improve if we want to score and to win.
"As I said in the last press conference, if you don't score, if you are lucky not to concede, the game finishes 0-0."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.