Antonio Conte admits it was not ideal to bring Ross Barkley off the bench so early on in their EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Arsenal.
Following a goalless first leg at Stamford Bridge, this instalment of the semi-final was more akin to the lively Premier League meeting here just 21 days ago and it was Granit Xhaka’s second-half strike which set up a Wembley meeting with Manchester City on February 25.
Eden Hazard put the Blues into an early lead only for Arsenal to level through an Antonio Rudiger own goal before Xhaka settled the tie on the hour-mark to seal a 2-1 win.
Willian was forced off with an injury in the first half and was replaced by Barkley to make his Chelsea debut but Conte reckons the England international has a lot of improving to do.
“My thoughts are there is disappointment for the final result,” Conte told Sky Sports.
“I think my players must be pleased with their effort, we tried to reach the final, we conceded two goals and we were unlucky, two deflections.
“It is a pity because we had a good run in this competition, it is a pity for me, the players and fans.
“We started very well, played a good first half and in the second half I saw a lot of balance.
“When there is an injury to one of your best players it is not simple, especially when on the bench the only substitute is Ross Barkley.
“Barkley has a lot of space for improvement, he is working with us only two weeks but for sure today I was forced to make this substitution, but he can improve a lot.
“I don’t need anything, I’m a coach and I continue with my players.”