Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has put the shock 1-0 defeat by West Ham down to his players becoming fatigued by their punishing schedule.
Conte made just one change from the side that drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night and the Blues were caught on the hop against West Ham in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Marko Arnautovic’s goal after just six minutes was enough to see off the Premier League champions and Conte, whose side will play nine games in all competitions this month, put the London derby loss down to his men experiencing tiredness.
‘Maybe today many players were tired,’ he told Sky Sports after the game. ‘Also because we made a lot of mistakes in the final decision, important decision and it means we are a bit tired.
‘But when you play every game in two days almost always with the same players, it can happen.’
The Blues have already lost four games in the Premier League this season, but Conte is not writing off his side’s chances of defending their title just yet.
‘We have to concede these are four games that we lose after 16 games,’ he added. ‘When you lose four games, my previous experience tells me that it is very possible to stay and fight for the title.’
Defender Gary Cahill was particularly damning of Chelsea’s performance at the London Stadium.
‘We were miles off it from the start of the game,’ Cahill said after the game. ‘We allowed them to get the early goal, a poor goal to concede on our behalf. We have been tight of late and that was a poor goal to concede.
‘But we had plenty of time to get back into the game but that laboured start carried on throughout the game.’
The England international was quick to insist that he would not use the jammed fixture list as an excuse for the disappointing result.
However, the 31-year-old could not hide his frustration at the fact his side were handed an early kick-off on Saturday after contending with Champions League football this week.
‘I’m not one to sit here and make excuses,’ Cahill said. ‘The fact is we’ve got loads of games, the fact is we play Champions League and get the early kick-off Saturday. They’re just facts, that’s what’s happening. I’m not going to stand here and give excuses.
‘We play to our levels today and we get something out of the game without a shadow. We didn’t so we didn’t and you can’t afford to do that in this league, especially against teams who are fighting for their lives.’