Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is refusing to be drawn into the excitement surrounding what could be one of the tightest title tussles in years, saying he’ll weigh up his side’s credentials in the second half of the 2016-17 campaign.

Conte’s ranks flourished in his favoured 3-4-3 setup in an impressive stroll to victory at Southampton on Sunday, with unanswered strikes coming from each member of the irrepressible forward tandem of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.

Related: Hazard exceeds goal tally from last season with winner vs. Southampton

The three points drew Chelsea to within a point of joint-leaders Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool in the Premier League.

“At this moment, it’s not important for us to look at the table,” Conte told ESPN FC’s Liam Twomey. “We are in a good position, but it’s not important. It’s more important to work very hard and trust the work will improve us. Sometimes you can win a game but you don’t see it happening in the right way.

“Now, game by game, I’m seeing a lot of possibilities. I have confidence because we can improve. We can improve a lot. The only way that we must know now is to continue to work. Not look at the table.”

He added: “When you start the second part, our ideas will be more clear.”

Not only are stars like Hazard and Costa back to their best under Conte, but previously unheralded players such as Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso, signed amid relatively small fanfare from Fiorentina, have thrived under the Italian.

It’s a team that, unlike during last season’s struggles under Jose Mourinho and interim boss Guus Hiddink, is playing as one unit, showcasing a cohesion reminiscent of the admittedly lacking Italy side that Conte led to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals last summer.

“I’m pleased with the commitment, the work rate, to see my players worked very hard during the game with and without the ball,” Conte continued. “I think this is the right way, to reach great satisfaction in this championship. But we know that the road is long.”

With no European commitments serving as a potential distraction from domestic duty in midweek, Chelsea is not in action until next Saturday’s Premier League visit from Everton.

Menu