Antonio Conte conceded that Chelsea’s title defence “never started” and that his team are out of the Premier League title race after losing to West Ham United.
Marko Arnautovic’s goal earned the Hammers, who are in 18th place, a 1-0 victory over the Blues at London Stadium, while the champions suffered a fourth defeat of the season on Saturday and are 11 points behind leaders Manchester City.
During the start of the Premier League season, Chelsea opened their title defence with a loss against Burnley and had also gone on to lose in back-to-back games against Manchester City and struggling Crystal Palace. West Ham were without a win in eight league games before defeating the Blues last weekend.
Those defeats saw the defending champions dropping 16 points, just five short of the entire number they ceded in 2016-17, and Conte admitted that it is far short of the standard required for a realistic tilt at the top.
“To talk about the title race after a defeat, I think it a bit strange,” the Italian said. “Especially as this is the fourth defeat this season in 16 games. When you have this task it is impossible to think that you are in the title race.”
“My experience is this: if you want to stay in the race for the title, in the first part of the season you can lose once or twice. After 16 games, if you lose four, it means you never started this race.”
Conte also added that the players were tired in the game, rarely threatening despite their 69% possession.
“We created the chances but didn’t take them,” Conte added. “Today, many players were tired. It is normal when you play every few days. We started our pre-season with the same players, a lot are playing almost always, and you have to pay something for this.”
“We have a lot of reason to justify the result against Manchester City — we played after two days. When you lose against Palace, when they are bottom of the table, and lose again against West Ham when they are in a bad position — if you lose points in these games, you are not in the title race.”