Antonio Conte has surprisingly conceded defeat in the race for the Premier League title after Chelsea’s shock defeat to West Ham on Saturday.
The Blues looked a shadow of their usual self and were unable to break down a stubborn Hammers side who went ahead inside 10 minutes through Marko Arnautovic.
The 1-0 loss leaves Chelsea still 11 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand, and Conte now believes the margin is too big to claw back.
“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.”