Conte says Chelsea no longer in title race after West Ham defeat

Reuters , Saturday 9 Dec 2017

Soccer Football - Premier League - West Ham United vs Chelsea - London Stadium, London, Britain - December 9, 2017 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte looks dejected Reuters

Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said his side were no longer in the Premier League title race after they lost 1-0 to West Ham United on Saturday, leaving the champions 11 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City who play on Sunday.

Marko Arnautovic scored his first goal since he joined West Ham in July after swapping passes with Manuel Lanzini on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area and curling a low shot beyond Thibaut Courtois in the sixth minute of the London derby.

Conte brought on the attack-minded Pedro, Victor Moses and Willian as second-half substitutes but Chelsea failed to break down a West Ham defence that looks much sturdier under new manager David Moyes.

"To lose four games in 16 games, it means you are not in the title race," Conte said. "My experience of this is if you want to stay in the race for the title, in the first part of the season you can lose once or twice."

Particularly galling for Conte was the fact that three of the four defeats have come against clubs which would normally be considered relatively easy opposition for Chelsea -- Burnley on the opening day of the season, Crystal Palace and now West Ham.

Chelsea also lost at home to Manchester City, who visit Manchester United on Sunday.

The champions were left to rue some poor finishing against West Ham in the closing stages as Alvaro Morata blazed wide when he finally found some space and Eden Hazard wasted a chance moments later.

Chelsea struggled for much of the match to find a way through a West Ham defence that did not concede a goal for the first time since September.

West Ham manager Moyes praised his side for a "completely disciplined, organised performance" which had revolved around giving Chelsea little room on the ball and catching them on the break through Arnautovic and Michail Antonio.

"The game plan we set up worked, everything we went about we knew how to engage, and we were very close at Manchester City as well," he said, referring to last Sunday's 2-1 defeat to the leaders.

Despite the improvement since Moyes replaced Slaven Bilic as coach in November, West Ham remain in the relegation zone.

Chelsea's Conte said his players looked tired after a mid-week draw in the Champions League with Atletico Madrid and he again hinted at his frustration that his squad of players were not strong enough to challenge for domestic and European honours this season.

The Italian reportedly disagreed with the club's top officials in the close season about signings for this campaign.

"I think it is better to talk to people in the club and then give my opinion," he said when asked if he wanted to sign more players in the January transfer window.

Conte added: "The last decision was with the club. I can give my opinion but the decision is of the club."

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