Pochettino refuses to blame Chelsea players despite Arsenal humiliation

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kai Havertz;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kai Havertz</a> scores <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Arsenal;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Arsenal</a>’s third goal in <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Chelsea;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Chelsea</a>’s dismal defeat.</span><span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian</span>

Mauricio Pochettino refused to blame his players after Chelsea suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat against Arsenal – their heaviest loss in a London derby for nearly 40 years.

Arsenal maintained their hopes of a first Premier League title for 20 years, with the former Chelsea player Kai Havertz scoring twice as they ­surpassed a 5-1 thrashing of their rivals in the old First Division in March 1930 thanks to a sensational performance.

Related: Havertz and White run riot for Arsenal to crush Chelsea in boost to title hopes

Leandro Trossard’s opener after four minutes set the tone in a first half when Arsenal registered 13 shots – their most against Chelsea in a ­Premier League season since they were last crowned champions in 2004.

Having survived a scare when Nicolas Jackson’s cross was diverted on to the post by Gabriel, the home side made their opponents suffer in the second half as two goals apiece from Ben White and Havertz in 18 minutes ensured they are four points clear of Manchester City.

But Pochettino, who had ­challenged Chelsea’s players to prove that they are not “Cole Palmer Football Club” in the absence of the England forward through illness, admitted it was a night to forget after his team suffered a first league defeat since the start of February.

“We didn’t compete. It’s not an excuse but it’s the kind of the ­inconsistency we have shown all season,” said Pochettino, whose side have now conceded 57 goals this season, more than in any previous Premier League campaign.

Asked if he felt let down by his players, the Chelsea manager said: “No, not let down. There are too many details and circumstances for why this happened. The club is ­building and that is always a risk you take when you are building a squad. When we have bad days, we are so bad. But when we have good days, we are capable of everything.”

With City not in action until ­Thursday night against Brighton and still having another game in hand that could mean they leapfrog Arsenal and Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp’s side have the opportunity to pull level on points when they face Everton in Wednesday’s Merseyside derby.

But Mikel Arteta, who was delighted with how his team have responded to successive defeats to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich, acknowledged that the trip across north London to face Tottenham on Sunday has now taken on even more significance in the title race.

“We played with a lot of ­courage and it was a big day for our ­supporters,” he said. “It’s great for our confidence to show we can perform like this against big teams. But it’s back to work tomorrow and we are going to have to work hard to get a result in a big game.”

Asked whether his close relationship with Pochettino had after his enjoyment of the result, he said: “No, I love winning and he would say the same. But he’s someone I admire and for sure I want the best for him.”