Thomas Tuchel blamed himself for fielding a much-changed lineup that lost narrowly to Arsenal, saying his side received a “wake-up call” that leaves them uncertain of Champions League qualification via the domestic route with two games left.
Chelsea were overwhelmingly dominant against Mikel Arteta’s visitors but missed golden chances in both halves and conceded a 16th minute winner to Emile Smith Rowe after a calamitous error from Jorginho. Tuchel bemoaned their lack of intensity and admitted the seven changes he made, with an eye on Saturday’s FA Cup final against Leicester, did not help.
“It is our fault, nobody else’s,” he said. “We lost the game, it’s totally our responsibility. Overall we were not sharp enough, we could not put up the same intensity as usual.
“Maybe I made too many changes from the last match so I take full responsibility for that, and maybe it’s the last wake-up call for us. I felt it a little bit coming in training yesterday and I’m a bit unlucky that it is proven today on the pitch. We had three days [to prepare], we had a good run and were in a good mood, but the choices were not so good on my side for the lineup so this is on me.
“We were unlucky but we did everything today to lose. I’m not happy with my lineup, I should not have done it like this.”
Tuchel suspected his selection offered the wrong messages: “Maybe also I gave some signals to the team with changes that Saturday is on my mind, even if it’s only 5% or 1%.”
Chelsea will still make certain of a top-four place if they win a league game against Leicester three days after the cup final and an away fixture at Aston Villa. Defeating Manchester City in the Champions League final would also ensure they qualify for next season’s competition.
No such permutations are available to Arteta although Arsenal’s win, their first at Stamford Bridge for 10 years, means they retain a chance of a place in the new Conference League.
“It is mathematically possible, we keep saying that,” Arteta said, but most of his post-match energy appeared to be directed at the reporting of pre-match comments he made about his players’ development.
“Inside nothing is broken,” he said. “They will try to put things on me that I never said. You can see the spirit of the team from the first minute. You can never doubt the effort and how much they try.”