Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea need to “recharge the batteries” after blaming tiredness for their lacklustre performance in the 1-1 Premier League draw at Brighton.
The European champions’ fading title hopes suffered another setback after Hakim Ziyech’s first-half opener was cancelled out by stand-in Albion skipper Adam Webster.
Chelsea topped the table as recently as the start of last month but have spectacularly fallen out of contention having now won just two of their nine top-flight outings since.
Blues boss Tuchel once again bemoaned his club’s punishing schedule and now plans to give his players two days off ahead of Sunday’s home game against Tottenham.
Asked to explain the recent poor league form, the German replied: “I answered this question a hundred times, if you look at our situation of long-term injuries, of key players injured, and of Covid and you look at our schedule you will have the answer.
“We are mentally tired and physically tired, you can see it in our performance, it’s as easy as that. We need to recharge the batteries, we need to reconnect.
“This is my feeling, that’s why I give the players two days off and then we will use Friday and Saturday to prepare for Sunday.”
Out-of-sorts Chelsea struggled for cohesion and fluidity throughout their visit to Sussex, with record signing Romelu Lukaku once again ineffectual before being withdrawn 10 minutes from time.
Tuchel’s men, who suffered a damaging 1-0 weekend loss at leaders Manchester City, are now 12 points adrift of top spot, having also played one fixture more.
Indeed, they may soon be looking over their shoulders as the plethora of recent postponements have left top-four rivals Arsenal and Tottenham with a number of games in hand in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Ziyech fired the Blues in front against the run of play with a low strike from distance but they could not prevent Brighton deservedly earning a point courtesy of a thumping 60th-minute header from Webster.
Tuchel – who guided his side to the Carabao Cup final this month with a two-legged semi-final victory over Spurs – insisted the performance and result at the Amex Stadium was not down to a lack of ambition.
“It’s very, very tough to play at Brighton and they played it like a cup game, the noise at the whistle at the end was like we lost the game and this can very easily give you the impression that we lost but we didn’t,” he said.
“Other teams will struggle to get points here and it’s even tough if you’re not tired. There are some obstacles to overcome here and I simply refuse to be angry because it’s not about the ambition.
“We were a bit lucky to be 1-0 ahead and you can take advantage of it and score a second one but we struggled to show the quality. We demand a lot from us but it’s not the time to be too harsh.”
Brighton remain ninth following their 11th draw of a fruitful campaign in which they have lost just four times in the league.
Seagulls boss Graham Potter felt his side could have taken all three points with a little help from the “football gods”.
“We played with courage, with quality, intensity, everything you need to do against a top team,” he said.
“Sometimes the football gods are with you, sometimes they’re not, and you have to accept that but we gave ourselves a chance to win that, absolutely.
“Overall I’m just so happy for the players because they’ve put everything into the game, great personality, great spirit on the pitch, and it was a fantastic atmosphere.”