Antonio Conte admitted the “two faces” of Chelsea were evident after the Premier League champions were humbled 3-2 by Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
Gary Cahill was sent off in the 14th minute by referee Craig Pawson for a high lunge at Steven Defour and Burnley responded by powering into a 3-0 lead with two goals from Sam Vokes and a Stephen Ward strike.
Chelsea fought back through Alvaro Morata and David Luiz, but Cesc Fabregas’ dismissal for two bookable offences disrupted their momentum in a second-half they dominated.
“The red card was a key moment. After that we lost our composure and conceded three goals,” Conte said.
“We have to improve a lot on this aspect because there was the rest of the game to try to do our best. We must have the right experience to face this situation.
“Instead we conceded three goals and in the second half it was very difficult to change the final result despite the great commitment, will and desire of my players.
“I’m very proud of my players, but in this game we saw two faces – the first half negative and the second half positive.
“In the second half we changed totally the situation and tried to attack in the right way.”
When asked if Pawson got the big decisions right, Conte replied: “Mmm…I prefer to not comment on the referee’s decision and performance.
“I think that the coach, the players and referee can make mistakes.”
Conte, who named £58million Spain striker Alvaro Mata on the bench, denied a suggestion that his team selection was a message to the board that he is disgruntled over Chelsea’s transfer activity this summer.
“In our pre-season, in every pre-season, I played our best formation and I did the same against Burnley. I picked the best players that we have at this moment,” Conte said.
“Why do I have to send a message? Why? I want to win. I wanted to win here, not to send a message.”
Burnley boss Sean Dyche praised Pawson’s officiating of the game, insisting he had performed well in difficult circumstances, and declared his team worthy winners.
“The sending off makes a big difference. I haven’t seen it but my staff tell me it’s the correct decision,” Dyche said.
“I thought the referee was really good. He had a tough game to handle and he did well overall. We responded to the sending off well.
“Overall we deserved it. They’re a top class side with some fantastic individuals. Losing 3-0 is not usual for them so they had to respond so credit to them for that.
“We were disappointed in the two goals conceded because before that we’d kept a really good shape and they didn’t have too many chances.
“It’s a big win for us because they’re a fine side. Even with 10 men they’re a very good team. They’re strong and physical.
“They opened up the pitch even more when they had 10 men which put us on the back foot a bit. I’m really pleased with our mentality.”
Ahead of Manchester United’s Premier League opener on Sunday against West Ham United, Jose Mourinho has a selection conundrum – as well as one over his preferred formation.
Last year, United relied heavily on a 4-2-3-1, with there being a few occasions where Mourinho shuffled around his formation to suit specific games.
However, this season, the United manager has a few options for how he wants to set out his team.
Mourinho used this formation on occasion in preseason, after Chelsea made it popular during last season’s march to the title.
In a 3-4-3, Antonio Valencia would feature as the right wing-back, while the left wing-back role is up for grabs. Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo are injured, so it could be any of Jesse Lingard, Matteo Darmian, or Daley Blind playing on the left side.
Eric Bailly is the only guaranteed starter among the centre-backs and should be joined by two from Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and new signing Victor Lindelof. The Swede has had a few shaky moments in preseason so it’s possible that Jones and Smalling will get the nod.
Mourinho’s biggest conundrum in this formation would be who to leave out in midfield. Usually, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba would be guaranteed starters, but new signing Nemanja Matic hasn’t been bought to sit on the bench. The likelihood is that Pogba and Herrera would get the nod to start the season, but Matic will come in for Herrera in certain games.
The biggest advantage of this formation would be up front, where Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would flank £75 million striker Romelu Lukaku. Being able to get Rashford and Belgian on the pitch together was one of Mourinho’s biggest goals in preseason, and this was one of the ways he managed it.
Mourinho used this formation in the European Super Cup tie against Real Madrid, to mixed results. Lingard was played as the left wing-back but seemed to struggle in the role, and was taken off at half-time.
United also used the 3-5-2 in their famous 2-0 win over Chelsea last season, with Rashford and Lingard up front, so Mourinho knows how this formation can work in the Premier League.
If the Portuguese opts for this formation on Sunday, the personnel would largely be the same as in the aforementioned 3-4-3, with the difference likely being that all three central midfielders would get to play together.
However, this would also mean sacrificing one of Rashford or Mkhitaryan up front, assuming that Lukaku is a guaranteed starter.
This still seems the likeliest option given United’s personnel, and Mourinho used this formation quite often in preseason. Its effectiveness again lies in allowing Matic, Pogba, and Herrera to play together.
Valencia and Darmian will play on either side of the two centre-backs, likely to be Bailly and Jones on Saturday, while Pogba, Matic, and Herrera can play in midfield together.
Rashford, Lukaku, and Mkhitaryan will likely be the preferred front three.
Chelsea made a dramatic start to their Premier League title defence after falling to a 3-2 defeat by Burnley at Stamford Bridge that featured red cards for Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.
Cahill was sent off by referee Craig Pawson after only 14 minutes for lunging at Steven Defour with a high tackle and Burnley’s response was to storm 3-0 ahead through two goals from Sam Vokes and a terrific strike by Stephen Ward.
Goals from Alvaro Morata and David Luiz sandwiched a second red card, this time for Cesc Fabregas who had been booked twice, in a second half dominated by the champions.
“Thanks for a great second half and I hope this spirit will drive on” – Former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot (@mariomelchiot) is determined to find positives in the result.
Take a bow Sam Vokes, the Burnley striker who opened the visitors’ account and fired his second for a goal that ultimately proved to be the winner.
Visiting fans celebrated wildly at seeing their underdogs power 3-0 ahead and it was Vokes who spearheaded the upset.
Cahill is the obvious candidate on the grounds of his early red card, but it was the shortcomings of Chelsea’s entire defence that resulted in one of the greatest opening day upsets in Premier League history.
Burnley were outstanding but on each occasion they were given a helping hand by a leaky Blues rearguard who played as though they were strangers.
Dapper Italian Antonio Conte usually cuts a suave figure in the technical area but he was clad in a full Chelsea tracksuit for his side’s opening day defeat.
He made clear his disgust at the dismissal of Cahill, but the Blues boss was every exasperated with the performance of his players, although he can at least take heart from the fightback that fell short.
Thibaut Courtois : 5
Antonio Rudiger : 4
David Luiz : 4
Gary Cahill : 3
Cesar Azpilicueta : 5
N’Golo Kante: 5
Cesc Fabregas : 5
Marcos Alonso : 5
Michy Batshuayi: 5
Jeremie Boga : 6
Andreas Christensen (Boga, 18 and Musonda 92): 5
Alvaro Morata (Batshuayi 59): 7
Tom Heaton : 6
Matthew Lowton : 7
Jack Cork : 7
James Tarkowski : 7
Ben Mee : 6
Sam Vokes : 9
Robbie Brady : 7
Jeff Hendrick : 7
Steven Defour: 7
Johann Berg Gudmundsson : 6
Stephen Ward : 7
Jonathan Walters (Defour 75): 6
Scott Arfield (Gudmundsson 75): 6
Tottenham v Chelsea (Premier League, August 20 )
Burnley v West Bromwich Albion (Premier League, August 19 )