Antonio Conte reserved special praise for Cesc Fabregas after the Spaniard’s Man of the Match display in the win over Middlesbrough.
Fabregas, only in the starting line-up after an injury to N’Golo Kante, was imperious, creating two of Chelsea’s three goals and setting up countless other chances.
Fabregas himself spoke after the match about his battle to impress Conte, and the Italian too was quick to point out the player’s improvements.
Conte said: “Cesc is one of the best examples of our season. At the start (he) didn’t play a lot. Then through hard work, he improved a lot.
“Cesc is showing to be a fantastic player. I’m pleased for him, because I saw this season he put himself in this team in every moment, if he played and if he didn’t play.”
Fabregas helps Chelsea to play attractive football and style is important to Conte.
The Italian added: “We have our idea of football and we must continue to play always in this way, to attack – but at the same time to have good balance.
“We must continue in this way, not to think ‘now we must be more defensive to try to defend a result’.
“No. This is not our way. Our way is to try to dominate the game, create chances and always have the right balance.”
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game on Monday night, Fabregas admitted he’s had to dig deep but now feels he’s come out the other side a far stronger player.
“It’s been a difficult year for me. I’m used to playing a lot but I feel I have matured a lot,” he said.
“Many people told me I am not the type of player for Antonio Conte and I should leave but I like challenges. I hadn’t played every game but I think I have played in the last 20 games. When I have been on the pitch maybe my contribution is better than a full season.”