Under-pressure Chelsea manager Graham Potter said he took responsibility after a 2-0 loss at home to Aston Villa on Saturday sent the Blues into the bottom half of the Premier League tables.
Ollie Watkins gave Villa an early lead before a superb strike by John McGinn, fresh from starring in Scotland’s shock Euro 2024 win over Spain, made it 2-0 in the 56th minute with Chelsea booed off the field by their own fans come full-time at Stamford Bridge.
Defeat saw Villa leapfrog the hosts into ninth place, with the result leaving Chelsea, for so long used to being title-contenders, in 11th — below local rivals Fulham — and five points off any European spot.
“I don’t like to blame anybody, I have to take responsibility,” said Potter.
As for the jeers of the fans, the former Brighton boss added: “We can feel the pain of the supporters… I understand when you lose at home, the emotion of the game is such that people are going to be disappointed and frustrated and angry.
“Where we are in the league table, no one’s happy with. Whatever criticism comes I have to accept.”
– ‘Painful scoreline’ –
Once again Chelsea paid dearly for a lack of cutting edge up front. They had 27 shots on target to Villa’s five — but the Birmingham club made two of their chances count.
“The intention of the team was there,” said Potter. “You can tell by how many times we got in their box, the shots we had. There was a positive intent but the scoreline is painful for us.”
This was Villa’s fifth away win since Unai Emery became manager in October, and they are now just one point off Liverpool in eighth, and just two points shy of a European place.
Watkins has been a central figure in that run, scoring 10 goals this season and looking a revitalised player since Emery replaced Steven Gerrard.
“The first thing is his commitment to practice every day, trying to improve,” said Emery. “We’re trying to help him to use his characteristics and his skill in our shape. He is very demanding every day to try to practice. We think he can improve.”
Watkins broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, capitalising on a slack header from Marc Cucurella before lobbing the ball over Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Emiliano Martinez, Argentina’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper, preserved Villa’s lead by diving low to his left to deny Kai Havertz.
Villa captain McGinn doubled the lead in style with a well-struck curling effort from 25 yards out.
Chelsea worked hard but rarely threatened a goal. One consolation for the Blues was the sight of defender N’Golo Kante, a 2018 World Cup winner with France, coming off the bench in the 57th minute to make his first senior appearance for Chelsea under Potter, having been sidelined since August.