Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hit back at television pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp, branding them “stupid”, after they were critical of his side’s game-plan during Sunday's Premier League defeat to runaway leaders Manchester City.
Conte adopted ultra-defensive tactics which resulted in Chelsea having just 29 per cent possession and failing to register a shot on target, while Bernardo Silva’s strike moments after half-time was enough to seal maximum points for City.
During his co-commentary duties for Sky Sports, Neville described Chelsea’s showing as an “embarrassment”, while analyst Redknapp referred to their performance as a “crime against football” and “anti-football”.
Conte, however, was in no mood to entertain such assessments. “The pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics,” said the Italian, who started the clash without a recognised striker.
“I think you must have knowledge to speak about tactics and not only speak in a stupid way. You have to accept every criticism but I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and to lose 3-0 or 4-0.
“If I remember well, Arsenal played twice against them and you [the media] criticise a lot [Arsene] Wenger because they concede three goals in only 30 minutes.”
Defeat was Chelsea’s fourth in five top-flight matches and left the Stamford Bridge outfit in fifth place, five points adrift of Tottenham in fourth. City, meanwhile, are 18 points clear at the summit after moving to within four victories of being crowned champions.
Aside from winning the league, City require six wins from their remaining nine matches to break Chelsea’s 95-point record and eight to become the first team to smash the 100-point barrier.
“What really matters is to be champions,” said City boss Pep Guardiola. “I never spoke with the players about the records. Against Stoke [City’s next Premier League game on 12 March], we are going to try and play like we play all season.
“After, at the end, we will see. We are not going to play for records. Records are always a consequence of what you have done but they are not the main thing.”
City’s winner came less than a minute into the second period when Andreas Christensen fluffed a clearance and David Silva’s low cross was turned home at the far post by Bernardo Silva, who caught Marcos Alonso ball watching.