Chelsea manager Antonio Conte brushed off suggestions that he had coached his last Premier League game for the club as he took responsibility for their 3-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday.
Liverpool’s 4-0 victory over Brighton at Anfield meant a top-four finish would have eluded Chelsea in any case, and two goals from Ayoze Perez and a Dwight Gayle strike saw Newcastle heap misery on Conte and his players.
“We didn’t lose our place in Champions League today, but only in the last two game. Our chances today were zero,” Conte told Sky Sports.
“But I think to finish the season this way is not good for the team, it’s not good for the players, it’s not good for the fans.
“When you are at the end of the season, this can happen. But I think when there is this situation the first person to answer for this must be the coach, because if in this game we lacked the spirit, the will, the desire, I’m the first person to answer for this.”
Asked what he had done wrong, Conte said: “The other team was more determined than us and I think that today I wasn’t able to convey that determination to my players, to play the last game against Newcastle.”
Conte told his postmatch news conference that Chelsea had to rediscover their desire if they were to have any chance in the FA Cup final against Manchester United next Sunday.
“We must change. If we think we play a game like this in the final of the FA Cup, we don’t have a chance,” he said. “We have six days to change our approach, our desire and our will to fight.”
However, the former Italy coach would not be drawn on speculation that he will leave Stamford Bridge regardless of the outcome of the cup final.
Asked whether the Newcastle game had been his last in charge in the Premier League, he said: “Do you think so? No, I don’t think. For this season, for sure, now we have to play the last game in the FA Cup and as you know very well I am repeating always the same thing.
“I am committed to this club, for me this is important. Not speculation around me. The most important thing is what the club thinks, not you or the speculation.
“For sure we didn’t play a good game, from the start Newcastle outplayed us in every way. They showed a great desire and will to take three points and finish the season in the best possible way. For sure, we can do better.”
Chelsea face a second season in the last three years season outside the Champions League, a setback in both financial and footballing terms, but Conte said: “I think I am the last person to speak about this. You can ask the club what is the damage of being out of the Champions League.
“I am working with my players this season and I think it is not right to tell something about this. There are other people to judge our season and [say] which are the problems to finish out of the Champions League.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.