Tired Chelsea switching focus to top-four Premier League finish, says Conte

Rajiv van La Parra

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has explained that his decision to withdraw Tiemoue Bakayoko at halftime against West Ham on Saturday was a tactical one. The defending champions, who have already suffered four losses in this season, have now dropped 16 points, just five short of the entire number they conceded in 2016-17.

"We have to consider that this is the fourth game we've lost in 16 games", said Conte.

"If you want to stay in the title race, you can lose once or twice in this period", he said.

"There are six top teams and four go to Champions League", said Conte, who blamed fatigue for his players under-par performance. In my previous experience, when you lose four games in a season, it's impossible to stay and fight for the title. "This is not our case this season".

The win did not move West Ham out of the relegation zone but they are now level on points with West Brom who lost to second from bottom Swansea 1-0.

Substitute Perez thumped the ball into his own net four minutes from time in his efforts to prevent Shinji Okazaki from converting Jamie Vardy's cross, just as it looked as though Dwight Gayle's equaliser had clinched just a second Premier League point in seven games for Newcastle.

"We try to do our best. Bakayoko was playing a good game but when you find 11 players behind the ball and you are losing 1-0, it's important to change something", Conte added.

Giroud rescues Arsenal for a draw at St Mary's
Still, the result was underwhelming for the Gunners who missed an opportunity to return to the top four. Per Mertesacker had been restored to the line-up in place of the injured Shkodran Mustafi.

In what is a crucial December for almost all the Premier League teams, many critics have claimed that the Blues have lacked the mental toughness to defend their title given their problems. I must be honest, I liked his performance in the first half.

"This target is very important for me, for the players and for all".

'Maybe today many players were exhausted, ' he told Sky Sports after the game. Our passing was off, and we didn't create as much as we have been.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09: Scott Arfield of Burnley scores his sides first goal while under pressure from Daryl Janmaat of Watford during the Premier League match between Burnley and Watford at Turf Moor on December 9, 2017 in Burnley, England. We just didn't play our stuff. Despite that we created chances to score but we didn't take them.

When speaking to BBC's Match of the Day, Neville also ridiculed Antonio Conte after he's expressed the disappointment of the club's summer transfer dealings, as The Mail reports.

"We were miles off it from the start of the game", he said. "I can give my opinion but the last decision is of the club, and it is right to do this".

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