Six points in front, with a game in hand and only nine matches left for their rivals. It seems inevitable that Jose Mourinho’s men will be lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of May. However, they seem destined to do it limping over the finish line.
Hoping for a reaction to their disappointing Champions League exit, Mourinho only made one change for the home game against Southampton, he initially got one, with Diego Costa netting his first league goal in nearly two months.
But as the first half wore on, Southampton began to overrun their opponents, Matic putting in arguably his worst performance in a Chelsea shirt since he was reacquired last January. Although the second half bore a great improvement from Mourinho’s men, they could not force a decisive winning goal and for the second successive home league match they could only record one point.
For how poor the Blues were, Manchester City’s spring capitulation meant that Chelsea actually extended their lead over their nearest rival and with Pellegrini’s men now desperate for the solace of pre –season, their late challenge seems sure to be a feeble one.
Despite their current lead, they have somehow allowed Arsenal and even Manchester United onto the fringes on the title race. Looking at the Chelsea team that illuminated the division in the early months, it seemed implausible at that point that they would win the league almost as a default, the best of a bad bunch.
The early season Chelsea, brimmed with exuberance, the pragmatism and solidity that Mourinho had built in his firsts season back at the Bridge, was complimented by the goals of Costa and the wizardry of Cesc Fabregas.
Onto Fabregas, no player has been more representative of Chelsea’s second half struggles. The former Arsenal and Barcelona man was unquestionably the best footballer playing in the country up until the turn of year. Making even the most anti-Chelsea fan, enviously wishing he was wearing their team’s jersey rather than the Blue one on sight in West London. But his 2015 performances have been a shadow of his 2014 ones; he has struggled for the same levels of consistency and is now attracting, albeit ludicrous, criticism from some sections of his own fans.
Roman Abramovich has always craved a team that played free flowing, exciting attacking football and for the first few months of this season it seemed he finally had what he has always craved.
But as the prize has become closer, Mourinho’s side has retracted into a standard Jose side, difficult to beat, but at times difficult to watch.
There are still 10 games to go and his side will almost certainly have the last laugh when they again lift the trophy in May. But even Mourinho would rather his side can change the way people look back at this triumph.
The Chelsea vintage of 2014 deserve it.