What Chelsea must do to finish 4th in the Premier League

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Chelsea is sinking without a trace in this Premier League season. While it has been obvious since a 1-3 loss to Southampton early in October that the Blues were unlikely to repeat as Premier League champions, three league losses on the trot now make it increasingly difficult for Chelsea to finish in the top 4.

Consider that over the course of the last five Premier League seasons, the fourth place finisher has averaged 72 points in a season. That means, on average, those sides have dropped 42 points during the course of the campaign. This season, Chelsea has already dropped 25 meaning that Jose Mourinho’s side can only afford to drop 15-20 more points this season. Since the Premier League has 26 more fixtures, this means Chelsea will need to average somewhere between 2.25 and 2.4 points per game this season to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

To put this in context, last season when the Blues ran away with the league title, they averaged 2.28 points per game. The previous season’s champion Manchester City averaged 2.26 points per game. In other words, Chelsea must replicate last season’s Premier League title-winning form beginning with the home fixture next Saturday against Norwich for the remainder of the season to realistically have a shot to return to the UEFA Champions League.

While Jose Mourinho had produced teams in the past that have gone on the types of run necessary to achieve this gaudy feat, nothing in this current Chelsea side’s form, body language or consistency of play indicates that they can create this sort of run. Most pundits now believe that Mourinho’s position as Chelsea manager has become untenable and as I have argued previously, his bizarre behavior and willingness to throw anybody but himself under the bus has ultimately hurt Chelsea’s brand. But assuming Roman Abramovich opts to keep “The Special One” around, here are the fixtures where Chelsea must perform to a maximum level:

For this analysis we are going to assume Chelsea drops points away to Manchester United and Arsenal as well as home to Manchester City. Even if they draw all three games, that six dropped points leave only about 9 to 14 more that can be dropped for the Blues to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. If they lose all three matches, they can only drop 6 to 11 more points.

Nov 29 at Spurs

Chelsea shipped five goals in this match last season in a 5-3 loss. Mauricio Pochettino’s young squad has only grown in stature since that New Year’s Day blitz of the Blues. Considering Tottenham are the most likely competitor for 4th that Chelsea will face, this might be a six-pointer even in November.

Dec 15 at Leicester

Claudio Ranieri, the Chelsea manager whom Jose Mourinho replaced in his first stint, has the Foxes — who were considered relegation fodder early in the season — sitting 14 points ahead of the Blues through 12 rounds of play. Losing to Ranieri would not only be humiliating for Jose, but likely would hasten the end of any realistic shot at finishing 4th.

Feb 27 at Southampton

The Saints threw what was a disappointing start for Chelsea into a full-blown crisis with a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge in early October. Chelsea didn’t win at St Mary’s last season but may need to this year to have any shot at 4th place.

Mar 12 at Liverpool

Having been embarrassed by Jürgen Klopp last week, Mourinho can ill-afford to lose to him again. A school of thought has developed that Liverpool sacked Brenden Rodgers when they did because they anticipated Mourinho would soon be sacked and did not want to risk losing out on Klopp.

These above four games offer a sampling of what Mourinho faces. Drop points in all four and the chance to return to the UEFA Champions League is likely to be over. Drop points in two of the four games and the opportunity to finish 4th is further damaged leaving the Blues on life support. Run the table in these four games and Chelsea is back in the mix albeit with a very small margin for error.

After doing this analysis, I must state I think the job is becoming nearly impossible for the Blues. The vibe around the club is clearly not right though it should be pointed out that at this point in the 2013-14 season, Manchester City had four loses and still won the Premier League title, but dropping only two more games and drawing only handful for the remainder of the season. So while it can be done, very little in Chelsea’s level of performance indicates that it’s possible let alone likely.

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One Response

  1. ribman November 8, 2015

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