We may be only six games into the new Premier League season but some are already drawing their conclusions on how the title race will pan out – with many tipping Chelsea to lose the crown after incurring three defeats.
Indeed, it’s by no means an ideal start to a title defence, especially with Manchester City already developing an eight-point lead over the reigning champions as they sit pretty at the top of the table.
But we’ve seen sensational comebacks in the Premier League before – something Citizens fans from the 2011/12 campaign will be well aware off – and Football Fancast certainly aren’t ruling out the west Londoners just yet.
In fact, we believe the Blues will be returning to the form of old in the coming weeks and although it’s far too early to claim they’ll become the Premier League’s first title retainers since 2009, we feel pretty comfortable in predicting the gap between themselves and the Etihad outfit will close by the end of May.
To prove we’re not plucking that seemingly audacious claim out of thin air, here’s FIVE reasons why…
This time last week, Manchester City looked unstoppable. They’d claimed five consecutive Premier League victories without conceding, averaging 2.2 goals per-match in the process. Unquestionably title-winning form.
But in the space of four days they incurred two defeats, to Juventus and West Ham in the Champions League and Premier League respectively, suggesting the Citizens may not be the almighty, seemingly impenetrable attacking side previously assumed.
Both fixtures followed a similar pattern; namely, the away side scoring twice on the counter and City’s intricate passing game proving too slow and complicated to penetrate a resilient ten-man defence.
Likewise, two weekends ago, it took them until the 90th minute to break through Crystal Palace’s backline, courtesy of 18 year-old substitute Kelechi Iheanacho, so clearly that expensively assembled attack is struggling to live up to its billing at times.
That suggests struggling to score against well-organised defences, which there are plenty of in the Pemier League, could become a common pattern for the Etihad outfit throughout the season, costing them quite a few points in the process.
That defeat to Juventus at the Eithad has piled even more pressure on City in a tournament where they’re already feeling the heat.
Manuel Pellegrini and predecessor Roberto Mancini were both charged with the task of making the Citizens a European powerhouse, but they’re still yet to surpass the Champions League’s round of 16.
Having already lost at home to their biggest rivals in Group D, City know there can be no more slip ups against Europa League champions Sevilla and Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach, who are by no means whipping boy opposition. In fact, they make Group D arguably the toughest group to escape throughout the competition.
That not only heaps huge pressure on the players and Pellegrini but also provides an unwelcome distraction from their league campaign, which could prove particularly troubling when facing Sevilla just four days before the Manchester derby in October and Liverpool the weekend prior to the reverse fixture against Juventus in November.
Chelsea, meanwhile, sidestepped Maccabi Tel Aviv with immaculate ease on Wednesday, securing them a two-point and four-goal cushion at the top of Group G already, and will expect similarly little resistance from Porto and Dynamo Kiev.
If Chelsea lose another game in the next few weeks, you get the feeling their title bid could be over already.
Having already faced Manchester City and Arsenal once, however, the Blues are now on a relatively easy run of fixtures until the end of December – at which point they’ll face Manchester United.
Excluding Liverpool on the last day of October and Tottenham in November, all of Chelsea’s league opposition are what you’d describe as the Premier League’s rank and file, teams like Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Ham. They also face the three clubs promoted from the Championship last season – Norwich City, Bournemouth and Watford.
Of course, no game is a given in the Premier League and as Swansea City, Crystal Palace and Everton have already demonstrated, every team in the division wants to claim a shock result over reigning Premier League champions.
But if Chelsea can rekindle the steamrolling form of 2014/15 in the coming weeks, highly possible considering they’ve now recorded back-to-back victories, they should get to the Manchester United fixture on December 28th without dropping too many points.
Manchester City, on the other hand, face Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton – not to mention Juventus and Sevilla (twice) – in that same time period.
Chelsea’s improvements in results and performance has coincided with the return to fitness of one man – playmaking midfielder Oscar.
He may not initially seem like the Blues’ saving grace; after all, he spent the majority of the second half of last season on the bench following a series of largely underwhelming displays.
But the Brazil international creates a vital link between the midfield and attack through his pace and flair, which Chelsea sorely missed during their opening Premier League fixtures, and is one of the only No.10s in world football who provides the industriousness befitting of a Jose Mourinho side.
The Blues have looked far more balanced with the 24 year-old at the tip of their midfield, even if his influence on the game overall is a relatively small one, and their resulting improvement is clearly no miraculous occurrence.
Having now entered a campaign for the first time in his Chelsea career without spending the summer on international duty, many are tipping Oscar to come good on his much heralded potential this season.
Chelsea may have endured a rather catastrophic start to the season but let’s not forget how talented a bunch the west Londoners are.
Eden Hazard has clearly struggled this term but his talent is undoubted and many still view the 2015 PFA Player of the Year winner as the flagship talent of the Premier League, which I’m certain will become evident again over the next few weeks.
Likewise, Stamford Bridge is still the Premier League’s most formidable fortress. The 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace was only the second league fixture Jose Mourinho’s lost at the Bridge throughout his two spells as Chelsea manager – the other being a 2014 defeat to Sunderland – and clearly the Portuguese prioritises home form above all else. Which is unsurprising, considering every Premier League champion from the last decade has also finished at the top of the division’s home table.
That brings us onto Mourinho himself who, despite not being everybody’s cup of tea, is still the most decorated, proven and talented manager in the Premier League, boasting three English titles and two Champions League titles at the relatively tender age of 52.
Of course, chasing a deficit is relatively unfamiliar territory for The Special One, who prefers his sides to do the pace-setting. But of all the managers in the Premier League, you’d bank on him most to turn Chelsea’s poor results around.