Just when it was all getting a bit too easy for Chelsea in their pursuit for the Premier League title, they go and lose 5-3 to Tottenham Hotspur in one of the season’s most unexpected results thus far.
It’s shaken the Blues’ confidence somewhat and also nullified their advantage at the Premier League’s summit – they’re now equal on points, goals, wins, draws and defeats with reigning champions Manchester City.
But let’s not overreact here – Chelsea are still title favourites for a number of reasons. And just in case that Lilywhites defeat has made you forget some of them, here’s FIVE.
The doubts now circling Chelsea’s Premier League title bid immediately stem from their shock defeat to Tottenham on New Years’ day, a loss which has left the Blues claiming advantage over Manchester City on alphabetical order alone with both clubs, rather miraculously, level across the columns.
But it’s important not to overreact to a single fixture and in truth, the 5-3 defeat was a bit of a freak result. After all, this was the only time Chelsea have conceded five goals in 272 matches under Jose Mourinho’s leadership and Tottenham’s first win over the north Londoners since 2010, which pretty much says it all.
There’s been far too much hype surrounding Chelsea this season; first they were tipped to win the Premier League title undefeated, and then, after losing to Newcastle, labelled candidates for an unprecedented quadruple.
But if we’re being realistic, a dip in form was always inevitable for the Blues. City endured theirs earlier in the season and it’s now simply the Stamford Bridge outfit’s turn. Winning the Premier League title isn’t necessarily about who plays the best football for the longest period – it’s about who recovers from poor results the quickest.
Of course, the Spurs defeat didn’t take place in a vacuum and Chelsea’s form on the road has taken a serious hit over the last few months. Over their last six away fixtures, the Blues have won two, drawn two and lost two, constituting, rather telling, their only competitive defeats of the season thus far.
No doubt, Chelsea’s away form deserves Jose Mourinho’s close attention – it will have to improve if the Blues wish to remain dominant in the title race.
That being said, the Blues’ impeccable form at home could be just enough to see them over the line. Chelsea remain near-impenetrable at Stamford Bridge, taking maximum points from nine fixtures and conceding only thrice.
The good news for the west Londoners is that they’ve already visited the majority of the Premier League’s top half, barring West Ham, Arsenal and Swansea, whilst they’ll be playing host to both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Southampton, to name a few, in the second half of the campaign, giving them an intrinsic advantage at the business end of the season.
To give some comparison, City are still yet to face Everton, the Blues, Liverpool, Manchester United, Spurs and Swansea away from home – a much tougher task than Chelsea’s.
It may seem like a rather obvious point, but are you really prepared to bet against Jose Mourinho?
The Portuguese is undisputedly the best manager in the Premier League, if not world football, boasting league titles in Portugal, Italy, England and Spain, not to mention two Champions Leagues, at just 51 years of age.
Mourinho has never been the type to let a campaign implode and not to win the Premier League crown this year with a starting Xi so talented, perfectly balanced and reflective of his pragmatic philosophy, would arguably constitute the biggest failing of his career thus far.
He remains the master of the heavyweight fixtures too; since returning to Stamford Bridge last summer, the Chelsea gaffer is yet to lose to Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool in the Premier League. With both City and the Blues level across the columns currently, victory in those six-point affairs (as previously discussed, the majority of which are now to be played at Stamford Bridge) will be more vital than ever.
And just in case you’re not entirely convinced…
Of course, I wouldn’t bet against Jose Mourinho in any campaign, but especially not during the Portuguese’s second season at any given club.
The Chelsea gaffer has a phenomenal record when it comes to follow-up campaigns, given the time to let his methods take effect and sign the right players to suit his philosophy.
Mourinho’s second season at Porto for example, saw the Portuguese outfit win the Primeira Liga and the Champions League title that spring-boarded ‘the Special One’ into the Premier League. At Inter Milan, Mourinho’s second season produced an unexpected treble, including once again a league title and a Champions League title. With Real Madrid, Mourinho’s second term was the only one in which he lifted the La Liga trophy, recording a double against Barcelona.
The only debatable anomaly comes from his first spell at Chelsea. Mourinho failed to claim a consecutive League Cup in his second season, but retained the Blues’ Champions status.
Indeed, it seems that if there’s any time to entrust Mourinho to win you silverware, it’s during second seasons.
Every Premier League side has their flagship entities – those key players who make the biggest difference – but Chelsea’s, namely Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard, have been a level above the rest so far this season.
In Diego Costa, they have the joint-top scorer in the Premier League, alongside Sergio Aguero, with 14 goals from just 17 Premier League appearances, whilst Cesc Fabregas remains the division’s top creator with 14 assists in 19 outings. He’s also leading the Premier League charts in chances created per match, with an average of 3.4.
Then there’s Eden Hazard, perhaps not as superfluous in terms of output as many expected this season with eight goals and four assists from 20 appearances, but nobody in the Premier League comes close to his sensational average of 4.6 successful dribbles per match. The next-best, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, is some way behind at 3.4.
Football is a team game and if Chelsea are to win the league, everybody will have to contribute. But they say the stats don’t lie and currently, it’s the Blues’ key players that are dominating them in the Premier League.