London – Chelsea skipper John Terry is targeting the Premier League summit for Christmas but acknowledges his side must improve if they are to win away at Arsenal next week and dislodge the current leaders.
Chelsea claimed a narrow 2-1 over Crystal Palace on Saturday to cut the gap on Arsenal to two points after the north Londoners suffered a 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City in the day's early kick off.
Chelsea and Terry head to the Emirates next Monday for the key London derby hoping to inflict a third straight defeat on Arsenal, who looked jaded in Manchester on Saturday after a midweek loss to Napoli in the Champions League.
“We've got an opportunity to go away to Arsenal next week and go top of the league,” Terry told Chelsea TV on Sunday.
“They got a bit of a thumping, but they're a really good side and really good at home as well.
“It's going to be tough, but I think the motivation for us is to go there and beat them and go top of the league, which, just before Christmas, is a really good place to be.”
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was again critical of his side after they spurned a number of opportunities at home to a relegation-threatened Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
That followed their failure to turn first half dominance into three points at Stoke City last week, where they lost 3-2.
Poor defending was also cited in the 4-3 victory over bottom side Sunderland prior to the Stoke defeat but Terry was not concerned.
“We're clearly not firing on all cylinders at the moment,” the 33-year-old said.
“I think we've got another gear to go, which is still encouraging, being the position we are at the minute.
“So we're not too disappointed, we just know as a group we can get better.”
Arsenal's consistency had allowed them to open up a five-point lead at the top as Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur suffered some surprise defeats.
But the nature of their 6-3 defeat against City showed defensive vulnerability and a lack of squad depth leaving questions about their title chances ahead of the visit of Chelsea, who beat them twice in the league last season.
Chelsea host Swansea City and then Liverpool after Christmas before away trips to Southampton and Hull City then a big home match against struggling champions United. Terry believed going on a good run was crucial.
“It's not only us who have suffered defeats and draws against teams where you would expect us to win,” the former England captain said.
“Hopefully we can knock that out of our system sooner rather than later while other teams are still struggling.
“Manchester United are still struggling, Cardiff beat Man City, there's been all sorts of results that have been big upsets.”
Mourinho said he planned to rest Terry, if possible, for Tuesday's League Cup quarter-final away at Sunderland after they beat Arsenal at the Emirates in the previous round.
The Portuguese played down Chelsea's trophy chances this season after the Palace win, concerned at the lack of a killer 'selfish' striker but goalkeeper Petr Cech disagreed.
“It's great to be in the position we're in. We topped the group in the Champions League, we're two points off the Premier League leaders and we can be in the semi-final of a domestic cup if we win on Tuesday,” he said.
“All of this, and we know that we haven't reached our peak, so it's great.” – Reuters