Antonio Conte pointed to Chelsea’s scoring struggles as the biggest reason why they face an uphill struggle to finish in the Premier League’s top four this season after an unconvincing 1-0 win over relegation threatened Swansea City.
Cesc Fabregas scored his 50th Premier League goal to give the Blues a deserved lead in the fourth minute at the Liberty Stadium, but they failed to build on their bright start and were forced to absorb heavy pressure in the final minutes as Swansea pushed forward in desperate search of an equaliser.
The win moves Chelsea to within two points of fourth-placed Tottenham, who play Watford on Monday, but nine Premier League defeats this season have left Conte’s men needing results elsewhere to go their way in the final weeks to avoid another campaign without Champions League football.
Nor is goal difference Chelsea’s friend; they have netted 60 times in their 35 Premier League matches, the lowest tally of any of the top six, while Eden Hazard is the top scorer in the squad with just 12 league goals.
Conte was frustrated by Chelsea’s failure to secure all three points earlier with a second goal against Swansea, and admitted that a lack of ruthlessness has been the undoing of the dethroned Premier League champions.
“Our top scorer has scored only 12 goals,” Conte said in his postmatch news conference. “When your top scorer only gets 12 goals then it is hard to fight for something important, to fight for trophies.”
Speaking to BT Sport, he added: “We could be more clinical to kill the game, instead we keep the score at 1-0 and anything can happen until the end.
“It wasn’t easy. In the least five games at home [Swansea] won four and drew one. In England you must be prepared to fight in every game.
“The only way to put pressure on Tottenham was to get three points. We know they play on Monday against Watford, and we have to hope something positive happens for us.”
Three of Tottenham’s final four Premier League matches are at home, and Fabregas admitted that Chelsea can only hope to capitalise should their London rivals suffer an unlikely late collapse in form.
“We have an opportunity, but every game now becomes a final,” he insisted. “In every game we have to show our pride, show that we really want to make it happen, and then put pressure on them.
“The bad thing is that it’s not up to us, but we have to be right behind, putting pressure because in football anything can happen. We have to make sure that if it happens, we are there to take it.”