Antonio Conte: 3-5-2 has given Chelsea 'new balance and solidity'
WEST BROMWICH -- Antonio Conte claimed that Chelsea have found a "new balance and solidity" by switching to a 3-5-2 formation after watching his team demolish West Brom 4-0 at The Hawthorns.
Eden Hazard capped a scintillating individual performance with two goals, while Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso also found the net as Chelsea earned their fourth consecutive win in the Premier League to keep themselves on the fringes of the title race.
Conte named the same starting XI that had defeated Manchester United at Stamford Bridge a fortnight earlier, partnering Cesc Fabregas, N'Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko in a three-man central midfield and keeping faith with academy graduate Andreas Christensen over David Luiz to anchor the defence.
Saturday's win saw Chelsea record back-to-back clean sheets for the first time in the Premier League this season, and after the match Conte insisted that his team's improvement since last month's humiliating Champions League defeat to Roma indicates that the changes in personnel and system are working.
"This season I think we're changing something to find a new balance, a new solidity, to have a good balance when we are attacking and when we are defending," Conte said. "I hope to continue to improve. This is the second game we finished with a clean sheet and we have to continue in this way.
"In this season we faced a lot of problems from the start. Now we're trying to solve these problems, to recover the players, to find the right form for players like Hazard and also Morata -- this is the first season that he's playing with regularity.
"[N'Golo] Kante is recovering good form and you know very well the importance of these players for us. Also [Danny] Drinkwater, now he's starting to play.
"We had a lot of problems and also we're trying to change something in the tactical aspect, to find different solutions. When you concede so many goals it means you have to find a new balance and solidity."
Conte also voiced his backing for West Brom manager Tony Pulis, who endured hostile chants, boos and calls to be sacked from thousands of angry supporters throughout Saturday's match as his team slumped to their sixth defeat in 12 Premier League matches this season to remain 17th in the table.
"I must be honest: I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager," Conte added. "He has great experience and it's always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game.
"But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against [West Brom]. Before this game I studied them a lot and I saw that in the previous games they lost a lot of points and deserved a [better] position in the table than [they are in] now."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.