Alan Pardew has praised the job Antonio Conte has so far done at Chelsea, but stressed his “fabulous” influence owes much to the players he inherited.
Crystal Palace host Chelsea on Saturday when Conte’s team hope to set a new club record of 11 straight league wins and strengthen their lead at the top of the Premier League.
They have been transformed since the Italian adopted the increasingly-popular 3-4-3 formation, in which summer signings David Luiz and Marcos Alonso have excelled as much as the team-mates who struggled under Jose Mourinho last season.
Pardew also recognises they look “unbeatable”, but is adamant it is the players and not the system that is responsible for their success.
“It’s a system he knows very well; he’s coached that system so he’s got it pretty nailed down,” said Pardew of the former Juventus and Italy manager. “But they’ve still got world-class players.
“Don’t think it’s about this, or that. The manager’s done a great job but the world-class players are at the top of their game. And the best thing he’s done is not the system: he’s man-managed those people to perform better.
“(Eden) Hazard and (Diego) Costa are a different proposition this year, and they’ll be the first to admit that, (Cesc) Fabregas too.
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“Coming from Serie A it’s a different type of football and he’s got to grips with the toughness of the Premier League, and the physicality of it. He inherited players that were used to it, and he’s been helped by that.
“(But) he’s still done a fabulous job, the system suits them, and at the moment they look unbeatable.”
Despite Wednesday’s 2-1 home defeat by Manchester United – when Palace felt United’s opening goal should have been disallowed for handball – Pardew is adamant his team’s morale has not suffered.
A groin injury suffered by Mathieu Flamini means he has joined James Tomkins, Connor Wickham, Bakary Sako, Loic Remy, Pape Souare and Steve Mandanda on the sidelines, and Pardew said: “We knew these two games were going to be difficult, they are in a perfect moment, Chelsea.
“The best we can do is to make sure we give them a game which makes it as difficult as possible and hopefully get ourselves a result. It is possible.
“You have to show resilience and fight. We certainly showed that against United. There is no cliques forming and no-one’s not talking. The communication is good on the pitch. The fight is there.
“This team is fighting for the Palace shirt; I’ll make sure it fights to the last minute of every game.”