Didier Drogba has warned his Chelsea team-mates that they need to improve at both ends of the pitch if they are to retain their Premier League title. The champions ended the weekend in second place for the first time this season after yesterday's draw at Newcastle United, and have taken only four points from the last 15 on offer.
Salomon Kalou's equaliser meant they at least avoided a third successive League defeat for the first time in 11 years, but with Manchester United having returned to the top of the table with Saturday's 7-1 demolition of Blackburn Rovers, Drogba knows they need to be more ruthless in both penalty areas. The 32-year-old said: "That's normal, that's football. We had these moments last year and it is up to us to change things, to get back to scoring goals and not concede. We had so many clean sheets for a certain time, but now we are conceding in every game, so that's something we have to change if we want to go back to the top of the League."
Chelsea headed for St James' Park desperate to return with all three points after losing to Liverpool, Sunderland and Birmingham City either side of a 1-0 victory over Fulham in their previous four league games. Kalou's strike was just their second in that run of fixtures, in which they conceded seven, and that imbalance has proved costly.
Drogba said: "Once again we created a lot of chances and could have scored maybe another goal. But the problem is we conceded a goal very early in the game and we had to chase, and when you have to chase, you create more space and you create more fatigue as well, so it is difficult to convert the opportunities you have."
Chelsea's fortunes could take an upturn this week with the captain John Terry and his England team-mate Frank Lampard set to resume full training, although central defender Alex is heading back to Brazil to undergo knee surgery after delaying his operation in Terry's absence.
Newcastle eased themselves back into the top half of the table as a result of the point. "We are in a good position, but the most important thing is to stay in this division," said Jose Enrique, outlining that their priority is to avoid going straight back down again after their promotion last season. "If we can get into a better position, that's good, but the most important thing is to stay in the division – and if we continue in the same way, we can do it.
"When we play against the big teams, we have to drop back a little bit. I know it is uglier football, but if we get the results when we play like that, we will have to play like that in every game."
Newcastle have endured a mixed start to the season, particularly at home, where they have won only twice in eight attempts in the League, a 6-0 demolition of Aston Villa and a 5-1 rout of north-east rivals Sunderland.
But Blackpool, Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers have all left St James' Park with three points and Wigan Athletic and Fulham with draws. However, a point taken from Chelsea is a good result for any team and there was warm applause from the home fans on the final whistle.
Enrique, who was in the team beaten 5-1 at Bolton Wanderers last Saturday, said: "It was really important, of course for the point, but also for our confidence. We know we can beat any team, but we can also lose to anyone – this league is a little bit crazy. I know we were playing at home, but we were playing against Chelsea. They needed the points and they came here to win the three points, but we got a draw and that was really good."
Kevin Nolan, who missed the match with a persistent ankle injury, was due to have an injection to address the problem yesterday and will miss next weekend's trip to West Bromwich Albion, although manager Chris Hughton will be boosted by Joey Barton's return from suspension.
Elsewhere, Paul Konchesky has admitted he has not yet reached the level required at Liverpool and accepted responsibility for Tottenham's winner in the Reds' 2-1 defeat on Sunday.
The left-back was given a tough time by Aaron Lennon and was caught out of position and found lacking for pace as the winger raced through to score the decisive goal in added time.
Despite an encouraging performance at White Hart Lane, where Liverpool dominated the first half and should have led by more at the interval, Konchesky was the one player who came in for criticism.
He acknowledged his culpability against Spurs and stressed his determination to improve. "I've got to up my game. Where I've played before has not been as high a standard as Liverpool, but this is a good pressure," said the 29-year-old. "The fans want you to be in the top four because that's where Liverpool belong. Straight after [Lennon's winner] I knew that I'd have to hold my hands up, but we also had chances to win the game.
"That's part of football and we've got to try to take the positives out of the game. I was gutted [with the winner]; being the last minute as well it didn't give us any time to get back into the game. But that's life, we've got to put it behind us, and I've got to put it behind myself for the next game."