Antonio Conte & Pep Guardiola: Chelsea & Man City bosses' contrasting fortunes
Chelsea's win at Manchester City proved to be a game of vast contrasts for opposing managers Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola.
Conte jumped into the arms of his Chelsea support staff before congratulating his triumphant players at the conclusion of an explosive 3-1 win - while City counterpart Guardiola was left to ponder the ramifications of City's first home league defeat this season and two damaging red cards for Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho.
Conte, like Guardiola a Premier League newcomer, has no such problems after an eighth successive Premier League victory.
The big decisions: Which manager is getting them right?
Conte had his epiphany after a 2-1 defeat at home by Liverpool and a desperate 3-0 loss at Arsenal on 24 September left Chelsea languishing in eighth place, eight points behind then leaders City after six games.
The Italian decided this was the moment he must stay true to his tactical self, reverted to three at the back, moved veteran defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielder Cesc Fabregas aside and brought about an instant transformation.
Conte's deadline day signings David Luiz and Marcos Alonso have been pivotal to the change. The maverick Brazilian looks well protected in Chelsea's defensive set-up, while Alonso provides left-sided balance to complement the rejuvenated Victor Moses on the right.
The results speak for themselves. Conte is the first Chelsea manager to win eight consecutive Premier League games in a season since Jose Mourinho recorded nine wins in a row in 2006-07.
Fast forward from that loss to Arsenal and Chelsea now lead City by four points.
Conte was brave, decisive and has turned Chelsea's season around and sparked renewed optimism in a team that was sinking under Mourinho 12 months ago.
Guardiola, in contrast, has still to produce hard evidence that arguably his biggest decision since arriving at Manchester City has been justified.
The Spaniard's glowing reputation and outstanding pedigree, backed up by great successes at Barcelona - where he won two Champions Leagues - and Bayern Munich, means his wisdom is rarely, if ever, questioned.
When he made it clear England goalkeeper Joe Hart had no future at City and sent him on loan to Torino, it was very much a case of bringing in his own man when Claudio Bravo arrived from Barcelona in a £17m deal.
For all Hart's faults - and he is far from perfect - there has been nothing to suggest the 33-year-old Bravo is actually as good as his predecessor, let alone better.
If managers with a lesser reputation than Guardiola had made this decision, it would have been subjected to far greater scrutiny.
Bravo, whose unique selling point was apparently his ability with the ball at his feet, does not seem quite so adept at what might be regarded as goalkeeping's more basic challenges, such as making saves and generally giving off an air of authority.
He is hardly a relaxing, reassuring presence. When Willian raced on to Diego Costa's pass to score Chelsea's crucial second goal, Bravo's positioning and attempts to save actually ensured the chance was easier to take than it really was.
To raise a question mark against Guardiola may be seen as sacrilege by some - but Bravo will need to produce a lot more to even stand comparison with Hart.
Consistent Conte v constant City change
Conte's stability and selection has reaped a rich reward. He made one change for this game, his first in those eight winning matches, replacing injured Nemanja Matic with Cesc Fabregas.
Chelsea have the lowest number of changes in the Premier League this season, making just eight alterations to their starting line-up over the course of the campaign.
Of course this part of Conte's life is made a lot easier by not having midweek matches because Chelsea are not involved in Europe and have been eliminated from the EFL Cup. He does not have to cope with the dangers of excess demands on his players.
Guardiola has no such luxuries but still chose to make six changes from their previous Premier League game, the 2-1 win at Burnley, even though City had a blank week before this meeting with Chelsea.
The Burnley game followed a Champions League tie at Borussia Monchengladbach, but Guardiola's much-changed team follows a pattern. City have made 46 changes to their starting XI this season, more than any other club.
He has also changed his defensive formations, sometimes using four while reverting to three in an attempt to subdue Chelsea.
Guardiola has a wider spectrum of resources available to him but City look unsettled at the back in particular and there was a chaotic air to some of their defending, especially Nicolas Otamendi, when Chelsea were able to get their rearguard.
While Chelsea reel off the three-pointers, City struggle for consistency. Of course, had Kevin de Bruyne not wasted an open goal with City leading 1-0 Saturday's post-mortem examination might have been very different - but as it is they have kept just one clean sheet at home in the Premier League this season, and only two in their 14 games.
And at Etihad Stadium, which Guardiola would like to see become a fortress, they have won only three of their first seven games.
Chelsea look like a side based on stability and consistency; City look a team still searching for their true identity.
Chelsea keep cool while City see red
Conte is characterised as the hot-blooded Italian, a cauldron of emotion always bubbling just beneath the surface, while Guardiola is regarded as the cerebral, cultured coach who is the ultimate smooth operator.
And yet, when the pressure boiled over in the closing stages, it was Guardiola's team who cracked and lost their cool as the pain of an important defeat proved too much.
City, and their supporters, were ticking all afternoon on the back of what they regarded as a series of injustices inflicted by referee Anthony Taylor in the shape of rejected penalty appeals and one incident when Luiz clearly stepped in Sergio Aguero's path as he threatened to race clear following a misunderstanding that also involved Cesar Azpilicueta.
It all proved too much for Aguero, who was rightly shown red for a horrendous high tackle on Luiz while in the ensuing chaotic scenes that involved players and staff and threatened to stumble over into the crowd, Fernandinho was also sent off for grabbing Fabregas.
Fabregas has a knack of getting involved in these situations and it was clear that Fernandinho, who did not go quietly, felt he had been as much sinned-against as sinner.
And, in an almost symbolic moment, it was the old warrior Diego Costa - who has often given the impression he could cause a mass brawl in an empty room - who was acting as peacemaker.
It met with the approval of manager Conte, who cautioned Costa about his brushes with discipline after he diced with red cards at home to West Ham United and away to Watford earlier this season.
Conte said: "Diego is showing he is using his passion in the right way and I am very happy about that."
It may just have illustrated the difference between the sides at the moment. Chelsea were cold-blooded, ruthless and with the confidence this sort of golden run brings.
City play some wonderful football, are still very much title contenders, but must find the cool, killer touch that eludes them, especially at home.
Conte on course - but will Guardiola make changes?
Chelsea look fiercely well-drilled, organised and gifted under Conte. It is all going very smoothly after an uncertain start.
Conte may wish to make some additions around the edges in January - but the top-class striker and quality central defensive additions he wants may have to wait until the summer.
Can the same be said for Guardiola?
He will never change his playing style or philosophy on the game but he must surely address the defensive deficiencies that are clearly City's Achilles heel?
England centre-back John Stones may be a work in progress, once again guilty of over-playing against Chelsea, but at £47.5m he is clearly City's defensive cornerstone.
The priority needs to be finding an upgrade on Otamendi, who was bullied mercilessly by Costa. He escaped him far too comfortably to score his equaliser and spun him with embarrassing ease to set up Willian for the second.
Guardiola, who has been linked with Southampton's Virgil van Dijk, may also have trouble prising away top targets in January - but this performance will have surely brought what needs to be done into sharper focus.