Why Chelsea Fans Should Stay Positive Despite No Longer Being Invincible
Last weekend, Chelsea suffered defeat for the first time this season at the hands of Newcastle United, who delivered perhaps their best performance of the season. This caused many pundits and fans alike to write off Chelsea as simply early season favorites that would soon fall by the wayside. However, Chelsea remains three points clear of Manchester City in the title race as the halfway point of the 2014-15 Premier League campaign approaches, and this is unlikely to change any time soon. Here are several reasons why Chelsea fans have no reason to panic:
The time shortly before Christmas leading into the New Year is traditionally one of the most congested ranges of the Premier League schedule. In past seasons, Chelsea has struggled through these periods due to a difficult schedule of matches played in quick succession. This season, Chelsea will again face difficult opposition, leading off the stretch with a dreaded away day at Stoke before returning home for a Boxing Day clash with 4th place West Ham. Two days later, they travel south for a test at St. Mary’s against Southampton. They then cap off this difficult stretch with a New Year’s Day match against Tottenham Hotspur, taking place at the friendly confines of White Hart Lane.
A stretch like that can be difficult on the legs of Chelsea players, who have fielded the most consistent lineup of any Premier League team up to this point in the season. Earning 8 or 9 points from this stretch will put them in a better position than Manchester City, who only earned 6 points from their matches against those four teams already this season. This stretch will also provide Chelsea with crucial tests that will be sure to highlight any remaining weaknesses in the squad. The transfer window opens on January 1 and Chelsea are rumored to be in the market to potentially boost their already stacked squad with even more talent. It is hard to imagine that the Premier League’s best offensive and defensive team can improve on their dominance, but if anyone can engineer such a feat it is Jose Mourinho.
Last season, Mourinho helped Chelsea earn a total of 10 points from their four-match holiday season stretch. After a scoreless draw with Arsenal, the Blues rattled off victories against Swansea City, Liverpool, and Southampton. In Jose’s current term as Chelsea manager, he has not lost a Premier League match against Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool. He exerts almost complete control over the opposing managers of these teams, playing mind games and frustrating the squads they field against Chelsea. Part of the reason is that no team in the Premier League kills a game the way Chelsea does.
Chelsea has conceded 13 goals up to this point in the season. Only Manchester City and Manchester United have managed to score equalizing goals on Chelsea after trailing in a match against them this season. This dominance when holding a lead is personified by John Obi Mikel, who is Mourinho’s preferred substitute when his team holds a lead. In his nine Premier League appearances this season, Mikel has a passing percentage of 92.1%, the 13th highest of any player in Europe. This allows Chelsea to kill games off with superior passing play, forcing opponents to exert themselves to gain possession, while conserving their energy for future matches.
Chelsea is a versatile squad with many strengths that teams will find difficult to break down. Matches that appear difficult suddenly seem routine for a squad with the requisite quality to win the Premier League. Over the course of the first 16 matches, Chelsea was only defeated once. Chelsea currently boasts the Premier League’s best striker in Diego Costa, best overall defense, two top quality goalkeepers, and a midfield that may be the best in the world. Chelsea will continue on this blistering pace and should be considered heavy Premier League favorites going forward.