(Reuters) - The Chelsea players need to shoulder the responsibility for their “abysmal” Premier League displays in recent weeks and not under-fire manager Antonio Conte, defender Gary Cahill said.
The defending champions have endured a turbulent period on the pitch, losing 4-1 at Watford on Monday, five days after a 3-0 home defeat by Bournemouth, increasing speculation over the future of their Italian coach.
“The players have to take responsibility. The manager has done an absolutely unbelievable job,” Cahill said.
“This is the worst I’ve felt for a while. Performance-wise, I didn’t recognise us or myself. It was abysmal.”
The defeat against Watford left Chelsea fourth in the table, 19 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City with a clash against basement side West Bromwich Albion coming up on Monday.
“We just need to keep strong. I’ve been here before at this club. It’s about staying calm. It hurts a lot when you come off after a performance like that.”
Fellow defender Cesar Azpilicueta said Chelsea must focus on finishing in the top four and suggested they could still salvage their season by winning a cup competition.
Chelsea face Hull City in the fifth round of the FA Cup and are in the last 16 of the Champions League, where they take on Spanish side Barcelona later this month.
“I’m sure this team will fight back. We have three targets to go for and we have a massive three or four months ahead of us,” Spaniard Azpilicueta said.
“As a player, what I want is to get back on the training field as soon as possible, work hard for Monday’s game, get the three points and get some confidence back.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien