Chelsea V Arsenal at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview

03 February 2017
Chelsea V Arsenal - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Antonio Conte admits he was 'shocked' by Chelsea's loss to Arsenal in September

Defeat at Arsenal weighs heavily on Antonio Conte's mind and was the shock which spurred Chelsea to the top of the Premier League.

Chelsea lost 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, a defeat which prompted a change of formation to 3-4-3 and sparked a 13-game winning run in the Premier League.

"For me it was a shock," said Conte, whose Chelsea side play Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

"Usually, my teams are not used to conceding three goals after the first half.

"I tried to transfer this shock on to my players, to avoid it happening again in the future.

"It was a bad defeat, 3-0 after the first half. And in my mind it's present, it's always present, this defeat.

"I hope (it is) also in the mind of my players."

The Blues have 15 wins in 17 league games since, the January 4 loss at Spurs and Tuesday's draw at Liverpool the exceptions.

Chelsea lead by nine points from second-placed Tottenham and Saturday's opponents Arsenal, who are behind Spurs on goal difference.

N'Golo Kante was a Premier League champion last season and is on course to repeat the feat after swapping Leicester for Chelsea.

"If it is so simple, next season I think every team would pay B#100million for N'Golo and would be sure to win the title," said Conte, with a smile.

"First of all, we didn't win the title this season (yet). I hope (we do).

"If this happens, for N'Golo it would be a great achievement.

"But I don't trust in the theory that you can win only because of one player.

"Win, lose or draw, the team is together."

The France midfielder was left trailing by Mesut Ozil in the loss at Arsenal, but has been consistently brilliant since and was "outstanding" at Liverpool on Tuesday night, said Conte.

The Chelsea head coach added: "I think he can improve a lot still, to try to look always forward, to try and play forward."

Chelsea's lead would be 12 points had Diego Costa converted a penalty at Anfield.

The striker, who has scored 15 times this season, was once again linked with a mega-money move to China on Friday, with reports in Spain suggesting that the 28-year-old will move at the end of the season.

Conte insisted Costa is focused on the present, but would not look beyond the end of the current season.

"Every week I hear a lot of news, a lot of speculation about Diego," Conte said.

"I think now the most important thing is to be focused on this championship."

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has admitted to twice losing out on Kante. The 25-year-old was heavily linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium after Wenger said 12 months ago that he had been aware of the player for several years.

But he instead ended up at London rivals Chelsea and - ahead of their clash - Wenger conceded he had twice been thwarted in moves for the former Caen player.

"Yes. When he (was) in France, when he (was) at Leicester," he said when asked if he had looked to sign Kante.

He then appeared to imply Kante had chosen Chelsea as his destination for financial reasons.

Asked what happened in a move for the player, Wenger added: "There again, I cannot explain everything but it is quite obvious when you look where he has gone.

Pushed on if it was a move driven by money, he added: "I do not want to talk about that, transfers are transfers - you cannot explain absolutely everything."

Wenger could certainly do with a player like Kante for the short journey to face the title favourites.

He confirmed Aaron Ramsey faces three weeks on the sidelines after picking up a calf injury in the surprise 2-1 home defeat to Watford on Tuesday which leaves the Gunners adrift.

With Granit Xhaka serving a ban for his second red card of the season, Mohamed Elneny in the final of the African Cup of Nations with Egypt, Jack Wilshere on loan at Bournemouth and Santi Cazorla and now Ramsey both injured, Wenger's options are limited.

Francis Coquelin will surely start in his most natural role but there is no obvious partner for the Frenchman, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain having played in Ramsey's place after replacing him against Watford.

Wenger could opt to start with the England man - who faces a fitness test after taking a knock to the knee against the Hornets - or turn to youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who impressed there in the recent 5-0 FA Cup win over Southampton but has never started a Premier League game.