Chelsea have the hallmark of champs
Conte's men not far away from topping the table at Christmas
|(Diego Costa 76)|
Antonio Conte will have to wrestle with his personal frustrations for a little while longer.
He claimed that he had found it "difficult to accept" Chelsea's status as the EPL's title favourites. That talk is showing no signs of fading just yet.
Topping the table at Christmas - the usual barometer which transforms its champions-elect into eventual winners - is not far away from becoming a reality.
Perhaps this was the Italian's master plan all along.
There is little which bonds Conte to Jose Mourinho, in both their personalities and philosophies, but their penchant for harnessing expectations on their own terms is the solitary trait which retains a recurring theme.
His predecessor, currently toiling at Manchester United, previously spoke of Chelsea in metaphorical terms as a "little horse" just months before they captured the crown.
The man who succeeded him at Stamford Bridge prefers to downplay the myriad of plaudits and personal accolades which have been festooned upon him and his side in recent weeks.
Playing the underdog has never been in the make-up of the modern Chelsea.
It is often considered an affront to the high standards set in the increasingly short-term climate of success set under Roman Abramovich's decade-long spell as owner.
Conte, however, believes in embracing the chance to shift that perception with over half of the current campaign left.
Talk of topping the table with a 100-point tally was slapped down as "impossible" despite comfortably surpassing the triple-figure barrier with Juventus just three seasons ago.
West Brom have tended to be a problem for Chelsea managers nearing the end of their reigns but they also threatened to pose teething troubles for Conte's pace-setters.
It prompted a rethink as his trademark 3-4-3 formation was inverted to place a greater balance than his traditionally front-loaded and time-honoured approach.
The sight of teams intent on "parking the bus" would have made Mourinho wipe away tears of joy, both within and away from his former west London stronghold.
But Chelsea's ability to grind out results irrespective of the pitfalls thrown their way is confirming their status as the team to beat against a backdrop of inconsistent rivals.
Arsenal and Liverpool may have had the measure of Conte's side before he reverted to a three-man defence but they lack the mental fortitude to see out one-goal encounters.
That is undeniably the true mark of champions.
So, too, is the luxury of boasting a striker with a flawless record of 12 goals to date.
Diego Costa may have been restricted in his chances but he required only one against the Baggies.
The last Chelsea manager to record nine straight EPL wins was an interim option, but Conte will not feel any dishonour in being spoken in the same breath as Guus Hiddink.
Abramovich turned to the veteran Dutchman to arrest the decline on two occasions; first when Luiz Felipe Scolari had floundered and again when Mourinho suffered a meltdown.
The latter, almost 12 months ago to the day, prompted Chelsea's belated renaissance after their pitiful defence of the title fell drastically short before the midway point was even reached.
Under Conte, they are again swaggering to the summit, and showing no signs of relenting.