While everyone is raving about the competitiveness of this Premier League season as we enter the final two months of play, it is entirely possible Chelsea will run away with the league still. Challenges remain for the Blues to overcome but it is becoming more likely the title race is decided before the final matchday of the season.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea are getting results, rotating the squad well and showing tactical pragmatism. At times, some critics have derided Chelsea’s style as cynical, and his public persona as highly questionable but what Mourinho is doing again at Chelsea is setting up his team to maximize results while annoying some neutrals in the process. In this era of English self-loathing and obsession with style, Mourinho’s willingness to buck conventional norms must be considered refreshing. Moreover, particularly at Stamford Bridge, the Blues have not been overly negative.
While considered largely a defensive manager by some critics, Mourinho’s sides have shown an ability to entertain. In the last two months, the Blues have been resourceful enough to play slick attacking football or dour defensive football depending on the circumstance. In the process, they remain unbeaten in the league this calendar year.
Not long ago after Jose Mourinho’s infamous “I can win any match 1-0” comments, many thought we would see the Blues playing out the season with drab, lifeless football. But the surge of Liverpool and two unexpected draws (to West Ham and West Brom) changed the equation enough that Mourinho cannot be overly negative yet.
Mourinho continues to tout the potential for Manchester City to overtake his team. However, the Citizens elimination from two cups this week as well as recent dip in form indicates it may be a tough ask of Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Remaining fixtures also are not favorable for Manchester City. The club has won just once at Arsenal in a league match since 1975, and that was last season when the Gunners were reduced to ten men inside the first ten minutes of the match. The Blues recent record at Anfield is equally poor, having last won in 2002 when Nicolas Anelka scored a late brace. Manchester City has won just once in the last eleven trips to Goodison Park, and that clash late in 2008-09 season was largely meaningless. Recent years have seen City turn in its worst performances of the season arguably against Everton away, but with both sides fielding different managers this season, perhaps that trend is stopped. Still City have looked largely a spent force since the beginning of February with little indication that will change. Exiting two competitions this past week and reducing the fixture congestion no doubt will help, but perhaps it is too late?
Liverpool, it is argued by some have the best shot to overtake Chelsea, facing both Mourinho’s side and Manchester City at Anfield. For neutrals, Liverpool should be the pick to win the title as it will be as powerfully and sentimentally symbolic on the 25th Anniversary of Hillsborough as Manchester United’s League-European double was on the 50th Anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster. But defensive errors and a lack of experience in this type of title fight mean the Reds probably finish the season behind Chelsea and Manchester City.
Then there is Arsenal. Desperate for silverware, and facing an injury crisis thanks largely to fixture congestion, perhaps the FA Cup is the priority now? The Gunners are within striking distance of Mourinho’s men, but given the way Arsenal have finished previous Premier League campaigns, it seems Arsene Wenger’s title hopes are flickering badly. But an FA Cup victory and another top 4 finish will be progress in the minds of many Gunners fans.
All this leads to the obvious conclusion. Chelsea control the title race, and short of Manchester City regaining the type of form that has eluded them since early January, Mourinho’s men will lift the trophy.
Editor’s note: Find out how to get Kartik Krishnaiyer’s new book entitled ‘Blue With Envy: My American Journey With Manchester City’ today.