Chelsea star Pedro has been impressive under Antonio Conte this season
One player more than any other typifies the transformation which has put his team clear at the top of the Premier League and strong favourites to win the title — and that is Pedro.
The dynamic little Spaniard is one of the most decorated footballers in history, with a World Cup, a European Championship, three Champions League triumphs and five Spanish titles on his record.
Now? Well, listen to the Chelsea boss, who said: “For sure, Pedro is a really important player for us.
“I think all of us can see his fantastic performances — not only scoring goals; he’s playing really good football with the ball and without the ball.
Conte has been impressed with Pedro's transformation at Chelsea
“He’s always in the right position to press and win the ball, and also to score goals. We are seeing the best moment of Pedro.
“He played this type of football when he was at Barcelona and I hope he continues to play in this way and to improve.”
Many pundits reckoned that ‘Barcelona style’ would be decisive this season in the Premier League with the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Pep’s progress has been fitful and instead it is one of his old Barca players, 29-year-old Pedro, who is lighting up the campaign.
Even Conte has been a touch surprised, though he would never admit it.
Pedro has scored seven goals in 22 appearances for Chelsea so far this season
Pedro only earned a starting place in the Chelsea team after Willian had to go home to Brazil for his mother’s funeral. He has played so well since getting an opportunity that Conte can’t leave him out.
“It’s not simple for me to pick the side when we have four great players in attack and only three places,” said Conte.
“But I am pleased by that, even if it’s not easy to make the best decision. It’s important to have great players all in form and to build a unity in the dressing room.
“It’s very important to have a good spirit. I think we are showing this and I think it’s one of the reasons why we are top of the table.
“You create the spirit day by day — with work, with decisions, with my behaviour and the players’ behaviour. You try to build step by step and you must know that you put a lot of time in to create this.”
Conte’s philosophy explains his intelligent handling of the fractious Diego Costa situation in the past 10 days — an iron fist inside velvet gloves.
Chelsea train ahead of Hull clash
Fri, January 20, 2017
Express Sport brings you all the best snaps as Chelsea train ahead of their clash with Hull on Sunday
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Diego Costa was all smiles as Chelsea train before their clash with Hull
Top scorer Costa is likely to be back in the team against Hull today, and the Chelsea manager has a message for those who think his side might struggle now.
He thinks they can get even better.
“We have to work even harder now than we did in the past if we want to stay top of the table,” said Conte.
“For sure I am pleased that we have reached our current level after only five or six months. But I can improve our level with more work.
“I think in my team I have great players with great hunger to work and improve technical situations. We have to increase our confidence and improve our knowledge.
“I think that with hard work we can transfer more knowledge to our players.”