Roberto di Matteo admitted he considered omitting John Terry from Premier League leaders Chelsea's 2-1 win away to London rivals Arsenal.
Terry was included in the team for Saturday's match at the Emirates Stadium just two days after he was given a four-game ban and £220,000 fine by the Football Association for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
The punishment, which related to an incident that took place during a west London derby last October, is, however, suspended pending the conclusion of an appeal process.
And di Matteo said his decision to include centre-half Terry was justified by the Chelsea captain's performance.
"I think it was the right choice to pick him today," said di Matteo, himself a former Chelsea and Italy midfielder.
"He showed leadership qualities and what a good defender he is.
"I had to think about it, what was the right thing for the game today and eventually I made the selection. I speak to my players all the time and I had a conversation with John as well."
Chelsea took advantage of a poor defensive display by Arsenal to extend their unbeaten start to the league campaign, with Fernando Torres and Juan Mata on target either side of Gervinho's equaliser for Arsenal.
Victory left the Blues three points clear of second-placed Everton after six games played but di Matteo insisted it was too early to start talking about the European champions' domestic title prospects.
"I haven't spent too much time thinking about that," he said. "I am pleased today with the way we have played away today because that gives the team a lot of confidence and belief that we can play differently.
"And we have to -- we have to try and improve and change our style.
"We've had a good start and hopefully we can build on that. But we also know how much work we have to do to integrate our new players and make them understand the system that we want to play and how we play."
By contrast, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was infuriated by a defensive display that he claimed reflected badly on their own hopes for challenging for the championship and ending a trophy drought now spanning seven years.
The Frenchman had suggested consecutive games against Manchester City and Chelsea would provide a test of the Gunners' ambitions, and asked if defeat by Chelsea meant they had failed that test he replied: "Completely, yes.
"We played against a good team but we gave the game away.
"They had three shots on target, scored two soft goals from set-pieces and defensively we were just not at the level you have to be in a big game like that. And that's why we were punished."
Laurent Koscielny was at fault for both Chelsea goals and Wenger -- who confirmed Abou Diaby would be out for at least three weeks with a thigh strain -- added: "I think we didn't attack the ball, not on the first, not on the second ball.
"The difference between Chelsea and us in the air on set-pieces was obvious.
"It's on the day, when you play at home you do not expect to concede two set-pieces, it puts us every time on the back foot.
"We played two big games in a week and to come back in a big game is difficult. Every time you go behind in a big game it is a 65 percent chance you will lose the game.
"We came back last week and we came back again today but gave it away right away...You have to take all the risks, you set yourself up and you play against good players who can hit you on counter-attacks and that's where we were not on the level today (Saturday)."