Chelsea players have bought into formation, says Conte
(Reuters) - Chelsea's players have fully bought into the switch in formation to a three-man defence this season, manager Antonio Conte said on Friday.
Under the 3-4-3 formation that Conte has employed since taking over in the summer, Chelsea have secured three successive Premier League victories, including wins against Manchester United and champions Leicester City, without conceding a goal.
Chelsea travel to Southampton on Sunday in fourth place, one point behind Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Conte said the players are adapting well to the change from the 4-4-2 formation they were used to in the past.
"I think it is not a win or a defeat that can change my idea or the players' confidence," Conte told reporters on Friday.
"I think it is the right way for the players because it is a good fit for the team, this system. We have found a good balance and also we have a good offensive situation because in every game we scored.
"It is different when you defend with four and when you defend with three defenders but I see a lot of positive things and we want to continue on this aspect and we are working hard to improve. We understood this way is the right way."
The system also appears to have provided more attacking freedom to playmaker Eden Hazard, who has scored four goals in the league so far, having struggled for much of last season.
Chelsea face a Southampton side who are on a five-game unbeaten run in the Premier League and Conte believes the trip to St Mary's Stadium will be a good examination of his side.
"This test is different. We are playing away against a team in good shape," he said. "It's a big test for our ambition."
The London club have won six of their nine league games but Conte dismissed premature talk that they can win the title.
"Now there are five teams very close but we shouldn't look at the table," the former Juventus coach added.
"We must think and must be focused on the work on the pitch and to see game by game because it is early to talk about the table, about the title race."
Conte added that defender Branislav Ivanovic has recovered from injury and was available for selection.
(Reporting by Nivedita Shankar in Bengaluru, editing by Simon Cambers)