Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal have little chance of ending their six-season wait for a Premier League title unless they improve on the quality of finishing they showed in the 2-0 defeat at leaders Chelsea. The Frenchman was left frustrated after his side failed to take advantage of long periods of territorial dominance at Stamford Bridge yesterday, with Laurent Koscielny and Marouane Chamakh missing their best opportunities.
The reigning champions, by contrast, demonstrated a more ruthless cutting edge, with Didier Drogba giving them a first-half lead with a neat back-heel before Alex sealed victory with a vicious late free-kick. The result left Chelsea four points in front of second-placed Manchester City and seven ahead of their opponents, who dropped to fourth.
"We have to be more clinical to win championships," Wenger said. "We cannot afford to lose a game like that. I feel sorry for my team because they had an outstanding attitude and an outstanding display. I feel sorry they were not rewarded.
"We live in a realistic world and if you don't take your chances, you can't win the game. If you sit back and allow them [Chelsea] to attack, they will punish you. So I decided to play in their half.
"We want to be rewarded. When we produce a game of that quality and have no points, we have to analyse why. We have to translate that into points."
The result inevitably drew attention to the gap between the two sides, but Wenger insisted the differences were marginal. "I feel the two teams are very close," he said. "You can give Chelsea credit today. They took advantage up front. They were much more clinical."
Arsenal's efforts were hindered when Abou Diaby left the field in the second half and his manager confirmed the midfielder would not be joining up with his country for next week's international programme. "Diaby has a bad ankle and looks to be a doubt for the French national team," Wenger revealed.
Carlo Ancelotti led Chelsea from the dugout after returning from his father's funeral in Italy the day before. Assistant manager Ray Wilkins confirmed the former Azzurri midfielder was always going to return for the game and revealed the 51-year-old received a message of support from his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.
Chelsea 'mettle' pleases Wilkins
Wilkins conceded his side had been forced to work hard for the victory, but insisted it was too early to write off Arsenal's chances in the title race. "We're only seven league games in and we've got a lot of football to be played, but we always want to be top," he said.
"At the moment we are, and hopefully we can stay there. Man United, Arsenal, they will always be there or thereabouts. But we have to keep our own house in order.
"Manchester City have to gel as a unit but they are getting results and good luck to them. But they are pulling guys together and it will come together. It's very tough but Roberto Mancini has done a good job."
Wilkins, who played for Chelsea before moving to United, added: "Arsenal are a super side. They are one of the sides that scare me because they can take the ball off you and not give it you back. But today we showed great determination and great mettle to our game.
"Sometimes you can't always play the way you want to. You have to fight and you have to scrap. And I think we have that quality. But when we do get in the final third, we have the beating of teams."