Worryingly for Antonio Conte, all his defeats this season have come in London.
So, with Manchester City coming to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, there is every chance that the hole blown into Chelsea‘s title charge by Crystal Palace on Saturday could be widened further still.
No wonder Conte had the air of a man still reeling afterwards without knowing exactly what had hit him when he met the media.
He will spend Monday with his players, taking another look at the DVD of a 2-1 defeat which could have been worse.
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Conte speaks after Chelsea’s shock loss to Crystal Palace
The Italian remained defiant, of course, maintaining that Chelsea had earned the right to lead the chase to be champions by seven points with nine games to go.
“Don’t forget, the other teams were candidates to win the title and instead we have stayed up the table,” said Conte. “We have tried to keep this position. If you are able to keep this position, it means that we deserve it.”
Quite right, too.
But the Spurs juggernaut is gaining momentum.
Their win at Burnley on Saturday, without injured star-man Harry Kane, was outstanding.
Pochettino’s men have won their last four to keep the pressure on and are poised to strike, as they face struggling Swansea while Man City are at the Bridge.
Add to that the fact Chelsea have not kept a clean sheet in the league since January.
“The stats are always important and I know this,” said Conte. “But sometimes we conceded a goal against [teams like] Arsenal and West Ham when the game was finished.
“Against Stoke City, we conceded a penalty. But for sure we know that we can improve and that needs to improve.”
It is a time for calm heads at a club more than used to the course and distance thsn Spurs are.
It is time for the kind of experience that enabled Conte to lift three consecutive Italian titles as Juventus coach.
CHELSEA’S FIVE DEFEATS UNDER CONTE
|September 16||Liverpool (H)||Premier League||1-2|
|September 24||Arsenal (A)||Premier League||3-0|
|October 26||West Ham (A)||EFL Cup||2-1|
|January 4||Tottenham (A)||Premier League||2-0|
|April 1||Crystal Palace (H)||Premier League||1-2|
Again, rightly, he pointed out that there is a big difference between the Palace defeat and those shambolic surrenders to Liverpool and Arsenal in September.
Back then, he was still getting his tactics right.
At White Hart Lane in January, Chelsea were beaten by the better team on the day.
Palace was just one of those days – even though Conte refuses to use the word ‘unlucky’.
“I don’t like this word,” he said. “In a lot of situations, you can score or not. Today we shot a lot of times, but the ball wasn’t going to go into the goal.
“I think this defeat is totally different.
“If you compare this defeat with the other defeats, we are another team. I think we are a strong team. Today, for sure, it wasn’t our day because we created a lot of chances to score a goal.
“We dominated the game (Chelsea had 73% possession and 24 shots to Palace’s eight, winning 11-3 in terms of efforts on target).
“When you lose this type of game, in your mind you try to apply a lot of questions. But it’s very difficult to find a reply to this result today.”
The absence of right wing-back Victor Moses was key.
Chelsea were unbalanced and Pedro, who deputised, was simply unable to cope with Man of the Match Wilfried Zaha.
Cesc Fabregas, on the right of a midfield three, did his job with a fine goal after just five minutes.
You could have had any price you like on Palace at that stage, with the points on course to stay at Stamford Bridge.
But then, over the next six minutes, came the goals that stunned the Premier League, let alone Stamford Bridge.
First, Zaha turned in the box and shot through three defenders to equalise.
Then, Christian Benteke showed outstanding composure to dummy keeper Thibaut Courtois before lifting the ball over him as he lay on the ground.
For all the huff and puff over the remaining 80 minutes-plus-stoppages, Chelsea had no answers.
They will have to find some on Wednesday.