Kepa Arrizabalaga believes improved consistency holds the key to Chelsea closing the gap on the teams above them and achieving the target of Champions League qualification this season.

The Blues were beaten 3-2 by West Ham on Wednesday night, our first defeat since the season restarted, but out Spanish stopper feels we are still in a strong position to finish the campaign well and achieve our goals.

He admits there was regret in midweek at passing up the opportunity to leapfrog Leicester City into third in the Premier League table and also in the manner of our derby defeat in east London, citing the team’s failure to manage key moments of the game correctly.

‘It was a disappointment,’ he reflected on our first domestic defeat in eight games. ‘It was definitely a lost opportunity for us because we knew it was a real chance to go third in the table.

‘It was a game where we had control of the ball and a lot of possession but at certain moments we didn’t manage the situations correctly and didn’t do the right things in those moments.’

Kepa feels the team’s inconsistency, while perhaps understandable given the youthful profile of the team Frank Lampard is building, has cost the Blues a chance to be closer to the top of the table.

‘From the team point of view, we’ve had some good moments as a group but also some moments where things have not gone quite as well as we’d hoped and that’s probably why we’re sitting in fourth place,’ the 25-year-old continued.

‘If we had managed to be more consistent and carry on the same form that we’ve shown in a decent amount of games, we probably would have been a little bit higher up the table.

‘The main thing is there are still quite a few games to go and some important games amongst those where we have a chance to play for what our objectives were at the start of the season - Champions League qualification and of course we have the FA Cup still to come.’

Looking further forward, the Spanish international believes that champions Liverpool and second-placed Manchester City, who we beat in our last Stamford Bridge outing, can be challenged by Lampard’s side next season.

‘Let's hope we are talking in a year's time and that we are candidates to challenge those two teams,’ he said. ‘We have a great squad here and we have a great manager. We can't deny the gap in points between us and the top two but I'm confident we can close that gap next season.

‘We know we need to improve but it is a hope we all have. There's a confidence that it is possible.'

The more immediate objective is to strengthen our position in the top four, with Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers now just two points behind, and the visit of Watford represents the chance to get the resurgent restart back on track.

‘It’s an important game,’ explains Kepa. ‘We’re at home, playing against a team who have very important objectives of their own at the other end of the table, a team who are fighting just as hard as we will be to fulfil our aims and objectives.

‘We feel strong mentally and very fit physically. There’s a good spirit about how we’ve been playing and now we hope for an end of season that is positive and can be celebrated.’

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