Antonio Conte Hits Back at 'Stupid' Jamie Redknapp, Gary Neville Criticism

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2018

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte looks on before the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England on March 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has hit back at Sky Sports pundits Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville after they criticised his side's lack of ambition in the Blues' 1-0 defeat at Manchester City on Sunday.

Per the Daily Mail's Chris Wheeler, the Italian defended his defensive approach to the contest:

"You have to accept every criticism, but I am not so stupid to play open against Manchester City and to lose 3-0 or 4-0.

"If I remember well, a few days ago, Arsenal played twice against them and then you criticise a lot [Arsene] Wenger because they concede three goals in only 30 minutes.

"The pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics because I think you must have knowledge and not only to speak in a stupid way."

Redknapp said the Blues "gave them three points before they started" because of their lack of desire to attack, which he described as an "anti-football" approach and a "crime against football."

Neville added: "They're just watching Manchester City play. They're like mannequins. It's painful to watch, this. In terms of a Premier League game, it's unacceptable."

The pair evidently did not mince their strong words, but Chelsea's negativity almost had to be seen to be believed at times.

OptaJoe demonstrated their lack of ambition:

Chelsea were able to muster three shots in the second half after Bernardo Silva broke the deadlock a minute after the restart, but none of them were on target.

Goal's Sam Lee noted the gulf between the sides:

Indeed, it's worth noting even relegation-threatened Newcastle United—whose similar approach to their clash with City on December 27 also attracted criticism—produced two shots on target against the Sky Blues, one of which required an impressive goal-line intervention from Nicolas Otamendi.

The Magpies may have been at home, but they're locked in an uphill battle for survival, whereas Chelsea are the reigning Premier League champions.

Eden Hazard cut an isolated figure as he was deployed up front at the expense of Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, though he did not hold Conte responsible, per football journalist Kristof Terreur:

Conte himself had no regrets, per Goal's Nizaar Kinsella:

ESPN FC's Liam Twomey could not understand why the manager set up the way he did and was critical of the consequences of his approach:

The Blues have now lost four of their last five Premier League games, which has left them fifth, five points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur.

Their UEFA Champions League campaign could well come to an end on March 14, when they face Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the second leg of their last-16 tie.

City are a class apart this year, but a team of the Blues' calibre and a manager of Conte's ability should display more positivity than they did at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.   

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