Simplicity is king for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte while Pep Guardiola insists on making life difficult at Manchester City

Matt Law
The Telegraph

Even with his choice of coat, Pep Guardiola appears to like doing things the hard way. Finding a pen in one of the numerous zipped pockets would be a challenge in itself.

Guardiola abandoned the coat that would take Arsène Wenger an entire season to work out in the 11th minute at Stamford Bridge, just after Eden Hazard had given Chelsea the lead.

The Spaniard would have also been wise to abandon his pre-match plan of putting Jesús Navas up against Eden Hazard, but this is a man who revels in making life difficult for himself.

With every game and goal conceded, the decision to ditch Joe Hart looks more puzzling and Willy Caballero’s failure to stop Hazard’s opener only underlined the theory that Guardiola has made problems for himself in his first season in English football.

Hazard could not believe his luck that he was up against makeshift right-back Navas. He wriggled his way free in the 22nd minute and picked out Cesc Fabregas, but Gaël Clichy managed to get in the way of the midfielder’s shot. It was too easy for the Belgian.

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Eden Hazard torments Jesus NavasCredit: AP
Eden Hazard torments Jesus NavasCredit: AP

Unsurprisingly, Navas was nowhere to be seen when Fabregas played Pedro into the left side of the penalty area and Fernandinho conceded the penalty from which Hazard scored at the second attempt.

You cannot help but feel that Guardiola’s first season could have gone so much better if he had just done the simple things. Pablo Zabaleta may not be the player he once was, but he remains a better right-back than Navas. Equally, for all his faults, Hart is still a more reliable goalkeeper in the Premier League than either ­Caballero or summer signing Claudio Bravo.

When he has needed a coat, or a hat for that matter, Conte has opted for standard club-issue clothing during his first season in the Premier League.

The Italian has proved himself the master of simplicity, much to the benefit of Chelsea who could still end the campaign with a League and FA Cup double.

This was the first Premier League game that Conte had disturbed his back three since introducing the formation to such devastating effect after the Arsenal defeat. With Victor Moses still out with a toe injury, Conte did not feel this was the time to take risks or try to be clever.

Chelsea 1 - 0 Man City (Eden Hazard, 10 min)

Pedro had suffered a difficult afternoon filling in at right wing-back against Crystal Palace, so Conte made the easiest change available to him. Cesar Azpilicueta switched to wing-back and Kurt Zouma stepped into the back three.

The change was not completely foolproof, as it was Zouma’s back pass that Thibaut Courtois kicked straight to David Silva, whose shot was saved before Sergio Agüero netted. Zouma was also outpaced by Leroy Sané on a couple of occasions in the first half, which perhaps contributed to Conte’s decision to replace the Frenchman with Nemanja Matic at the break and restore Azpilicueta to the back three.

Guardiola, on the other hand, remained stubborn and Navas retook his position at right-back for the second half even though the manager’s coat did not reappear.

The City manager threw his arms into the air, when Navas did not take an opportunity to beat Marcus Alonso and instead cut back on to his left foot. It was a poor decision, but not as poor as the one to have him on the pitch in the first place.

For all the hours of hard work behind the scenes, Conte has made management look easy this season. He has found a winning formula and stuck to it. Changes have been minimal and uncomplicated.

Chelsea's players celebrateCredit: Rex Features
Chelsea's players celebrateCredit: Rex Features

Conte has also realised he has the best player in the league in Hazard and has set his team up to get the best out of the 26-year-old. Give Hazard the ball and things will happen. It is not rocket science, but it is very effective.

Hazard’s second goal was his seventh of the season against top-seven opposition. He is the man who steps up when titles are there to be won.

There was a moment in the second half when Hazard picked the ball up near his own goal and went on a mazy run across Chelsea’s penalty area. It looked a suicidal decision, but he won a priceless free-kick from Vincent Kompany to relieve the pressure.

Still Navas stayed at right -back, when Guardiola finally made his first change with just over 10 minutes remaining. Sometimes, as Conte has proved, it is the simple things that are the most extraordinary.

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