Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel claims he accepts full blame for his team’s home loss by Arsenal after making seven changes for the game.
The Blues had won convincingly at Manchester City on Saturday, delaying the Premier League champions’ championship celebrations and boosting their chances of finishing in the top four.
However, with an FA Cup final against Leicester on Saturday, only four players remained in Tuchel’s squad for Wednesday’s visit of Arsenal.
It was still a strong line-up but a mistake by Jorginho in the first half allowed Emile Smith Rowe to score what proved to be the winning goal for Arsenal and, although Chelsea dominated possession and hit the woodwork twice late on, they couldn’t find an equaliser.
Chelsea remain fourth on 64 points but the defeat will give their rivals hope of sneaking into the top four. They are six points ahead of West Ham, who have a game in hand, and seven ahead of Liverpool, who have two games in hand on the Blues.
“I’m a bit angry that we had so many changes, that’s on me,” said Tuchel.
“I’m not so happy in the end with the line-up, but I didn’t know what would happen, I didn’t feel us today like I normally do and we can’t expect to win games if we’re not 100% in games.
“I’m not happy with what I saw, I have my responsibility because I picked the line-up, but the performance was the performance.”
Jorginho’s error will have been disappointing for Tuchel. The midfielder misjudged a pass back that was in danger of trickling over the line before Kepa Arrizabalaga managed to claw the ball away but only to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who teed up Smith Rowe to slot in.
Christian Pulisic thought he had equalised on the hour but his strike was ruled out by the video assistant referee for offside, while Bernd Leno pushed Kurt Zouma’s header onto the bar in injury time before Olivier Giroud’s volley also bounced back off the woodwork.
The victory also meant the Gunners completed the double over the Blues for the first time in 17 years to boost their own hopes of ensuring they are playing European football next season.
Arsenal are eighth and just one point behind Tottenham in seventh, although have played a game more.
Off day for Chelsea gives hope to chasing pack
Chelsea have been hugely impressive under Tuchel and, while the immediate goal is getting the points required to cement a top-four finish this season, the signs are good that they should be title challengers next term.
The two-legged win against Real Madrid in the semi-final of the Champions League highlighted how difficult a side they are to beat but this game also showed that they can sometimes be their own worst enemy.
Jorginho’s error, while attempting a blind pass back to Kepa, was the Blues’ eighth error leading to an opposition goal in the Premier League this season, behind only Liverpool (nine) and Chelsea’s most in a single league campaign since 2015-16.
Despite this, Chelsea had several chances to score but were inefficient in front of goal. Kai Havertz could have converted before Smith Rowe’s opener but blazed over when one-on-one, and Giroud had a decent shot to equalise in the second half as well.
Chelsea may have had half a mind on Saturday’s FA Cup final against Leicester and they are still in a great position to finish in the top four but the defeat – only their third under Tuchel – will give hope to the chasing pack.
Liverpool’s next two games are away to Manchester United and relegated West Brom and if they are to win those they would only be a point behind Chelsea with two games remaining.
“We didn’t have a shot for almost the whole second half,” added Tuchel.
“Maybe we deserved this, we will learn something.”
A welcome win, but still work to do for Arsenal
A win at a strong Chelsea side is certainly a very good result and one that keeps alive Arsenal’s hopes of avoiding missing out on European football for the first time in 27 seasons.
The performance was for large periods a disappointing one as, bar Smith Rowe’s tap-in following Jorginho’s mistake, they struggled to create anything of note as they spent the majority of the game camped in their own half.
But, to their credit, they were well-organized in defence, particularly when under pressure late on, and although they rode their luck at times, it was another promising outcome as the Gunners look to bring the loss of failing to make the Europa League final behind them.
Arsenal are certainly a long way from becoming a team that will contend for the top four anytime soon, but they have now won three Premier League games in a row and, with games against Crystal Palace and Brighton left, they have the chance to end an underwhelming season on a high note.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said: “I am really happy with a lot of things we have done, right from the first minute, the attitude and the desire to win that we showed.
“We had to dig in – you have to against this team because they are a fantastic team. We did it and we put [in] everything that we had to try to get the best possible result, and we did it.”
Double delight for Arsenal – the stats
- Arsenal completed their first Premier League double over Chelsea since the 2003-04 season, while this was their first league win at Stamford Bridge since October 2011, ending an eight-game winless run there (D2 L6).
- Arsenal have won three consecutive away Premier League matches without conceding for the first time since May 2013 under Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal have had a different player aged younger than 21 score in each of their last three Premier League matches against Chelsea – Gabriel Martinelli in January 2020, Bukayo Saka in December 2020 and Emile Smith Rowe tonight.
- Billy Gilmour has started each of Chelsea’s last three Premier League games – the 19-year-old is the first Scottish teenager to start three consecutive top-flight matches since Grant Hanley for Blackburn Rovers, in a run ending on New Year’s Day 2011.
- Chelsea have conceded 26 goals in 19 Premier League games when Antonio Rudiger hasn’t started this season, compared to just seven conceded in the 17 games when the German has started.
- Chelsea’s Mason Mount created more chances than any other player (four), taking his tally for the season to 82; only Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has created more in the Premier League this season (92).
Chelsea’s attention shifts to the FA Cup final against Leicester at Wembley on Saturday, 15 May (17:15 BST), while Arsenal’s next Premier League match is against Crystal Palace on Wednesday, 19 May (19:00 BST).