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Mauricio Pochettino said he and his Chelsea players must prove their worth to the club in the final weeks of a disappointing season, as he rejected accusations the team lacks motivation following their 5-0 defeat to Arsenal.

Tuesday’s hammering by the Premier League leaders was Chelsea’s heaviest in more than five years and came days after an FA Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Manchester City left them facing a third straight season without major domestic or European silverware.

There is still the possibility of qualification for next season’s Europa League or Conference League but in the aftermath of their capitulation at the Emirates Stadium, Pochettino has been left to pick up an emotionally bruised squad that some – including in the away section in north London – have accused of lacking fight.

Chelsea suffered their worst defeat in more than five years against Arsenal on Tuesday (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The Argentinian indicated a critical month lies ahead, not only for him but for his players in regards to their Stamford Bridge futures.

“It looks like only I need to prove (myself), no?” he said. “Always it’s about the coach needs to prove he deserves to be here next season.

“(But) we are all responsible for the situation. We need all to prove that we deserve to be here next season.”

Pochettino said he expects to have Cole Palmer available for Saturday’s trip to fourth-placed Aston Villa after the league’s joint-top scorer missed the defeat at the Emirates through illness.

On the whole though, Chelsea’s injury situation shows no sign of improving with as many as 12 players likely to be missing for the game at Villa Park, with Raheem Sterling and Carney Chukwuemeka the latest doubts.

It follows confirmation on Thursday that Enzo Fernandez will miss the rest of the season after undergoing groin surgery.

The manager faces an uphill task to marshal a threadbare squad on the run-in and chase down possible salvation in the shape of a European place.

However, he was adamant that whatever obstacles stand in Chelsea’s way, lack of motivation amongst the players was not one of them.

“If we think we are responsible for motivating the players? Wow – that is difficult to accept,” he said. “If you play for Chelsea, the motivation is there even if you play a friendly.

“If you ask me ‘do we need to motivate the players to play tomorrow, or after tomorrow?’, then I think we have a big problem. I don’t believe motivation is the problem.

Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been inconsistent this season (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“The problem is having the capacity to perform. We cannot give them excuses not to perform and be focused. But at the same time, we are a group of people. We are not machines. Some circumstances, you lose a bit of reference of things.

“We are here to try and help the focus. They need to be focused because there are still an important six games to play.

“It’s not ‘three games, three weeks, and then holidays’. It’s true the disappointment against Arsenal is massive. But it’s an opportunity to go tomorrow and be focused on the competition.”