Jurgen Klopp’s comments about Chelsea will have been interpreted and twisted across the globe. In saying that winning 13 on the bounce to only lead by a handful of points would be annoying, Klopp probably angered half of the Chelsea fan base. For some reason or other, that is.
What Liverpool’s endlessly entertaining manager is getting at, really, is that nearly breaking a record for consecutive victories does not really guarantee anything with regards to silverware. Across the course of a Premier League season the winning team will need to win somewhere upwards of 26 games with a handful of draws thrown in for good measure. Taking a maximum of 39 points from 13 games is good and well for the Blues, but it will be a meaningless purple patch if they cannot build on their lead.
Antonio Conte is probably a little frustrated by Chelsea’s lead too. Klopp is right, in the points-dropping competitiveness of the Premier League a team would hope to have a little more breathing space after such a run. Instead, Chelsea are a couple of poor results away from lurching back into the hustle and bustle of the peloton. Of course this is a direct consequence of Chelsea’s poor performances against Liverpool and Arsenal earlier in the campaign, but it is a point of frustration. Although still substantial favourites to lift the Premier League trophy in May, the Blues’ now-ended winning streak has not carried them to a safe distance ahead of the pack.
The timing of the streak is to blame for this as much as anything, really. Many of the earlier wins were required to keep pace and make up for early lost ground, while we have only just passed the halfway marker of the Premier League season.
Klopp is right, then. His Liverpool side currently lead the chasing pack, while Tottenham’s improved form has seen them reaffirm their credentials as challengers too. No side has shown the consistent, balanced form that Conte’s Chelsea have to date, but they have done enough to keep their toe in the door that opens towards Premier League glory.
Any team other than Chelsea lifting the Premier League will be an almighty shock from this point. That said, though, the Blues will be looking at the table and wondering if the pressure of maintaining that winning streak was really worth it. They may be able to play with a new freedom now that record-breaking weight is off their shoulders, or it may have killed their momentum. That is a relative unknown, of course, but it’s also what makes us love football.
Few leads are truly unassailable in the Premier League (just ask Kevin Keegan) but one would hope to have a substantially stronger footing after such a dominant few months. Chelsea would have been delighted to be offered this lead a few months ago, yet they be looking at the long road ahead and wondering if they can summon the energy to build another similar run.
The rest of the title contenders should be applauded for keeping pressure on Chelsea and, with the Blues facing some challenging fixtures over the next few weeks, we could yet have a tightly-fought final couple of months.