Former Manchester United defender and pundit Gary Neville has warned Chelsea against being dragged into a top four battle at the end of the season. It comes as the Blues have struggled with consistency after the international break.
Defeats to Brentford and Arsenal on their return to domestic football has allowed doubts to creep in as to whether Thomas Tuchel’s men can see out the rest of the season. However, a late 1-0 win over West Ham on Sunday has helped them restore a gap to those below them.
Despite the win, the manager believes that the last few results have played a part in a difficult atmosphere: “I think today was a bit due to the uncertainty of the last results. Honestly, games like this against West Ham are, in my opinion, very hard to have a hard and spectacular game. And full credit. They normally defend with eight or nine players deep around their box, and they do this so disciplined that it’s very hard to find spaces to accelerate.”
The late victory leaves the side in third, five points clear of Arsenal in fourth and seven ahead of Tottenham in fifth with a game in hand on both. That game comes against Manchester United on Thursday, where anything but defeat would confirm the Blues finishing above the Red Devils this season.
With Chelsea only a few bad results away from being dragged into the chasing pack, Neville has warned against the side doing so, though he has aimed a dig at his former side in his statement. Speaking ahead of the West Ham game on Sky Sports, he said: “They’ve [Chelsea] lost their last two [two from three before Sunday], there’s an element of they’ve got to stop the wheels coming off. You see where they are in the table and they seem comfortable, they go to Old Trafford on Thursday.
“That should be an easy one, but if they were to lose at United on Thursday then they’ll be dragged right into a big problem. They need to make sure they’re professional.”
Ralf Rangnick’s men are in very poor form, having only won once in their last five games. Their most recent defeat was a 3-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday, severely denting their chances of a top four finish.
Neville also added that it was difficult for Chelsea after their recent European exit, but said the season is far from over: “I can understand why it’s difficult for those players after going out of Europe with the performance they had, so I can see why they’re a little down. They’ve got a big FA Cup final coming up and they’ve got to secure third place – because there’s still a lot to do for them yet.”
Tuchel now has six games to confirm a Champions League place for next season, with an FA Cup final between all of that. While off-the-field issues sort themselves out, the Blues will be attempting to reach that finish line ahead of their London rivals.