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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Antonio Conte: Chelsea's Premier League title challenge is over after West Ham loss

Fourth defeat in 16 games has the Italian writing of his side's hopes of retaining top spot at the end of the season.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was dejected after his side's loss to West Ham United. David Klein / Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was dejected after his side's loss to West Ham United. David Klein / Reuters

Antonio Conte conceded Chelsea are out of the Premier League title race after their 1-0 defeat at West Ham United yesterday.

Marko Arnautovic’s early goal condemned the defending champions to a fourth defeat of the season and left them 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

And Conte, the Chelsea manager, admitted: “This is the fourth defeat in 16 games. When you have these stats it’s impossible to think you are in the title race.

“If you want to stay in the race for the title in the first part of the season you can only lose once or twice.”

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Chelsea are 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, and that gap could stretch to 14 today if Pep Guardiola’s men win the Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

Chelsea were carved open far too easily with West Ham’s first attack in the sixth minute, when Arnautovic played a quick one-two with Manuel Lanzini.

The Austrian nipped in behind Andreas Christensen and, as Cesar Azpilicueta stood off, curled his shot around the defender and keeper Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea had plenty of time to respond, yet it was a strangely subdued display from a side with six wins from their previous seven outings.

When their clearest chance arrived, six minutes from time, Alvaro Morata snatched at his shot and clipped the sidenetting.

“Today it was very difficult, our start was bad and it was difficult to come back,” added Conte.

“We created chances but didn’t take them and now we are talking about a defeat.

“Many of the players were tired. It’s normal. We started our pre-season with the same players, a lot of players are playing almost always.

“Today our ideas were not so clear. We made a lot of mistakes from the final pass. We can do better.”

West Ham looked a rejuvenated side to the strugglers they appeared towards the end of Slaven Bilic’s spell in charge as they secured a first win since David Moyes took over at the end of October.

For Moyes, it was also a first home win as a manager in almost a year, having presided over Sunderland’s miserable relegation campaign last season.

“All managers need wins. That’s the way it is,” he added.

“I think coming to the club everyone could see I have had a pretty difficult run of fixtures, but today we did a job, the game plan worked.

“I’m always happy when I win. The best feeling is the Saturday night feeling after a win.

“But then I put my jacket on as I left the dressing room and thought ‘oh no, we’ve got Arsenal in midweek’.”

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