Chelsea's defence is Conte's problem, not Cesc
Chelsea won't win anything until centre backs are sorted
(Shinji Okazaki 17, 34)
(Gary Cahill 45+2, Cesar Azpilicueta 49, Cesc Fabregas 92, 94)
l After extra time
Cesc Fabregas deserves a basket of muffins and a note of thanks, not from his manager, but his defenders.
The Spaniard stole the headlines, but the headaches belong with the back four.
Fabregas' fine double earned Chelsea's 4-2 win against Leicester City yesterday morning (Singapore time), but League Cup progress cannot mask those inherent deficiencies.
Calls to send in Fabregas to face Arsenal on Saturday will remain unimportant as long as Chelsea send in the clowns at the back.
Publicly, Antonio Conte was skipping and jumping after the Blues overcame a two-goal deficit. Privately, he must be hopping mad.
At Juventus and Italy, the manager's ambitions hinged upon defensive fortitude. For both club and country, he had a redoubtable goalkeeper and arguably the best back three in the business.
His centre backs were the cornerstone of his success. At Chelsea, he's got the Keystone Cops, slipping and sliding from one comic escapade to another.
It's a wonder Gary Cahill and David Luiz do not round off each slapstick routine with a custard pie across the cheek. In the end, they settled for egg on the face.
Not that they were the only culprits in a farce that will haunt Conte's training sessions in the days to come before Arsenal turn up at Stamford Bridge.
For Leicester's first goal, Marcos Alonso, finally making his debut at left back, appeared eager to get involved in Chelsea's Mr Bean lookalike contest.
He gave the ball away in his own half. Cahill failed to cut out the cross, which ballooned off Cesar Azpilicueta and fell to Shinji Okazaki.
The Leicester forward's soft header looped over Asmir Begovic, whose boots seemed to be stuck in gum for much of the contest.
Rather typically, Luiz had gone walkabout. With his wild, frizzy hair and tendency to wander off, the Brazilian gives the air of a man who's on his way to the Northern Territory for some spiritual contemplation at Uluru.
He certainly hadn't returned by the time Okazaki popped up in an identical position to knock in Leicester's second.
Those goals - and the Foxes created enough opportunities to kill off the contest - will influence Conte's thinking more than Fabregas' late brace.
For a manager steeped in the traditions of Catenaccio and the unswerving belief that a lack of defensive strength is an overriding team weakness, the Blues' pussycats must be giving Conte kittens.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
On the plus side, John Terry might shake off his ankle injury to face Arsenal. But Chelsea's reliance on a slowing centre back who'll be 36 in December does not suggest title-winning potential.
Besides, Luiz should be an able, experienced deputy. He's 29. Cahill is 30. They're not rookies stepping up to the majors, but trophy-winning veterans tasked with masterminding another shot at the silverware.
But on two occasions, Luiz calamitously misjudged the flight of a long ball, mistakes that should've been punished with further Leicester goals.
A cult figure at Chelsea for his infectious personality, the Brazilian remains a likeable character in a league so often populated with media-trained clones. But as a defender, he still labours with the intricacies of the game - like defending.
As the ball sailed over his head, he looked like an upturned mop blowing in the wind, struggling with his environment and threatening to fall at any moment.
Chelsea have managed just one clean sheet in their previous 14 games - and that came against Burnley - and conceded six in their last three games.
Leicester, Liverpool and even Swansea all netted twice against the Blues. Outscoring the opposition is an option, but not one favoured by either Chelsea's playing personnel or Conte's approach.
More interestingly, those clamouring for the return of Fabregas ignore the obvious flaw in the argument.
Fabregas doesn't defend with anywhere near the relentless consistency of N'Golo Kante, who was given the night off to allow the midfielder to resurrect his old partnership with Nemanja Matic.
Three into two doesn't go and the Spaniard may well suffer the indignity of being dropped again, just days after his match-winning heroics.
Fabregas isn't being betrayed by his manager, but by his flaky back four. As it stands, Chelsea can't compete without Kante's shield.
Until Conte can make a case for his defence, Fabregas will continue to play the fall guy.
I’m focusing on playing well and when i have the chance i’ll show what i can do, because i know what i can do and it’s a lot for this team.
- Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas (above)
Cesc is an intelligent player, a clever player and he sees the game, he feels the situation. i’m pleased for him, because in the games when he didn’t start in the line-up he always had a great attitude.
- Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on Fabregas
CHELSEA MANAGER ANTONIO CONTE ON COMEBACK....
“This is a typical english game because, after 30 minutes, you are 2-0 down and then you have a good reaction to score four goals... this is very important because it showed the will to win and to go into the next round. it wasn’t easy after 2-0 and after a defeat in the last game in the ePl (2-1 to liverpool). i appreciated the attitude and commitment of my players. We know we can improve a lot and the only way i know is to work very hard and to improve different aspects.”
LEICESTER MANAGER CLAUDIO RANIERI ON GAME-CHANGING GOAL...
“i am happy with our performance until 2-0. We started very well and we were in control of the match. Chelsea had more possession, but we were very smart and clever to score twice. the key was when we conceded a goal on the last corner of the half, we lost two dangerous men, luiz and Cahill. in extra time, i said stay together and close the space, but Fabregas scored and it was very difficult for us.”