Chelsea's Champions League push hit by loss to Arsenal

Chelsea slips up in its push for a Champions League spot, losing 1-0 to Arsenal at home.

Time to rejoice: Emile Smith Rowe celebrates with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang after scoring Arsenal's goal. - REUTERS

Chelsea slipped up in its push for a Champions League spot when it lost 1-0 at home to Arsenal in the Premier League on Wednesday with Emile Smith Rowe’s first-half goal settling the London derby after a defensive mix-up by the host.

MATCH CENTRE

The visitor capitalised on a wayward back pass by Chelsea’s Jorginho to goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga who scrambled back to palm it off the line. The ball fell to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who cut it back for Smith Rowe to score in the 16th minute.

Chelsea, which plays Leicester City in the FA Cup final on Saturday and Manchester City in the Champions League final on May 29, dominated possession but largely failed to break down Arsenal’s defensive lines.

Kai Havertz spurned a glorious chance to put Chelsea ahead in the 11th minute when the German dispossessed Arsenal defender Pablo Mari, ran through on goal but fired over when he looked certain to score.

The Blues turned up the tempo as the final whistle approached and almost drew level in the 90th minute when Kurt Zouma’s header was tipped onto the crossbar by Bernd Leno only for former Gunner Olivier Giroud, on as a sub, to hit the bar as well with a volley on the follow up.

 

The rare defeat under coach Thomas Tuchel - his third in his 26th game in all competitions - left Chelsea in the last of the Premier League’s four Champions League qualifying spots with two games to play. It is six points clear of West Ham United which has three matches left and seven ahead of Liverpool with four.

“It’s still in our hands,” Tuchel told Sky Sports. “We had some good results but we have to cope now with a loss.”

The German said he took responsibility for the defeat, blaming himself for making too many changes to his starting team. “I’m not happy with my lineup,” he said. “There were too many changes. I should not have done it like this.”

Arsenal edged up to eighth spot but has played more matches than Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, which are also pushing for a Europa League spot. “I’m very pleased, we haven’t won here in 10 years so it’s very good to get the result,” Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta told the BBC. “It’s a gift because we were pressing through with the right attitude and organisation so you force mistakes.”

Defeat a wake-up call - Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel said Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat by Arsenal was its own fault and a “wake-up call” ahead of a huge end to the season.

Tuchel’s side would have all but sealed a Premier League top-four finish with a win, but instead is now looking over its shoulders after a poor performance. “Totally our fault, nobody else’s. We lost, it’s totally our responsibility. We had huge chances. We made an own goal more or less - total gift,” Tuchel said.

“We weren’t on the pitch with the same energy, it wasn’t easy to come up with the intensity and passing. We weren’t sharp enough and didn’t have the same hunger and attitude as we’re used to playing with. So it’s on us.”

“It was maybe too many changes from the last match and I take full responsibility for that. Maybe it’s the last wake-up call for all of us.”

With an FA Cup final on Saturday against Leicester City, Tuchel made a number of changes to his starting lineup. It resulted in only a third defeat in 26 games in all competitions for Tuchel and left Chelsea in fourth spot in the Premier League with two games to play.

It is six points clear of West Ham United which has three matches left and seven ahead of Liverpool with four. “I felt it a little bit coming in training and I’m a bit unlucky that it’s proven today on the pitch. I regret... we could have, we could have, we could have but we didn’t,” Tuchel said. “The choices were not so good from my side for the lineup. This is on me. We were unlucky. We can lose in football. We did everything today to lose. I’m not happy with my lineup. There were too many changes and I shouldn’t have done it like this. It was something in particular but I don’t want to tell you.”

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