Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino called for patience from fans after his side were held to a 0-0 draw by Bournemouth.
The visitors missed a number of chances but were then hanging on for a point in the final 10 minutes as the Cherries piled on the pressure.
Pochettino confirmed winger None Mandueke missed the game because of a knee injury picked up on England Under-21 duty, while Moises Caicedo and Marc Cuccrella were absent from the squad because of injury and illness respectively.
They joined the likes of Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Christopher Nkunku, Carney Chukwuemeka, Benoit Badiashile and Romeo Lavia on the sidelines.
Frustrated fans made their feelings known at the final whistle, but Pochettino insisted it is unfair to judge his team until key players return.
“When you win the fans are happy, but what I can tell the fans is that the reality cannot change,” Pochettino said.
“We have too many players (out) but we are a team that can be as strong as Manchester City, Arsenal and company.
“When the whole squad is fit we can compete for everything. But what is different for us is what we don’t have all the squad available from the beginning of the season, so what can we do?
“For me, the fans can say whatever they want, we know what we need to do and are strong in our belief. We need some luck. We have 12 players injured.
“We have two or three young guys on the bench. But am I going to cry or complain? I need to accept this challenge and be positive that this team can compete. But it will be difficult.”
Chelsea have just five points – and have scored just five goals – after their first five matches of the season in what is proving to be a difficult start to Pochettino’s reign.
“After the first 20 or 25 minutes minutes I think we deserved to score,” he said.
“We’re disappointed with the result. We deserved the win but didn’t get what we deserved.”