Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois has questioned Antoino Conte’s decision to take off Eden Hazard during Manchester United’s 2-1 win over the champions on Sunday.
The Belgian forward, who had set up Willian’s 32nd minute goal, was taken off after 73 minutes for Pedro.
Jesse Lingard headed home a dramatic winner just two minutes later, and Conte later explained his decision to take off Hazard by citing “tactical reasons” – that tactic seemingly being to deflate his side’s attacking resolve by taking off their best player.
And Courtois, when asked about the substitution, was clearly exasperated by his manager’s decision.
“I have no explanation for the substitution of Hazard,” he said.
“I had not expected him to take him off but it is a choice of the manager. He must explain. I can’t look into his head.
“Players like Eden should have 90 minutes on the pitch. He can always bring something extra offensive.”
The worst part of this for Conte is that Courtois is completely right. Players like Hazard, especially in a big game, simply have to remain on the pitch throughout, and it was indeed telling that the West London side hardly produced anything going forward after taking him off.
And the Italian can hardly hit out at his keeper for this, although he likely will: every Chelsea player, even Pedro, will be thinking the same thing, growingly frustrated at their manager’s diminishing sense of endeavour and tactical vitality that proved so crucial last season.
As a result, Conte will leave England – most likely in the summer, possibly earlier – having learned a lesson he probably already knew prior to arriving from Italy: to never, ever pick a fight with Jose Mourinho.