Saturday 13th October 2018
Going into the October international break, it is fair to say that we might just have a Premier League title race on our hands this season. There are just two points separating the top five teams at the moment and Chelsea are in the thick of that bunch as they currently lie second in the table.
It is just goal difference that currently stops them from sitting at the summit but there will be few complaints from Maurizio Sarri as he has revitalised the fortunes of this Chelsea side in quick fashion. Arguably much quicker then many would have expected – so much so, that they are now being talked up in terms of being genuine title contenders. Looking at the odds for the Premier League winner, their current price of 9/1 with Betfair suggests that they might be the relative outsiders in what could well be a three horse race, come the end of the season.
The only thing that may end up working against Chelsea is the fact that they have to deal with the rigours of the Europa League. The Thursday, then Sunday schedule that this competition demands could well mean a litany of dropped points further down the line – something that was evident when they made the short journey to East London to face West Ham last month. Having played PAOK Salonika on the Thursday night, they then had to deal with the quick turnaround that a return to Premier League action presented them.
And they failed to continue what, up until then, was a 100% Premier League record for the season. Held by West Ham at the London Stadium, they laboured to a 0-0 draw against their crosstown rivals, although, one could argue that the Hammers’ resurgence under Manuel Pellegrini also played a part in the result.
If they can deal with the tight Europa League schedule, then there is no reason why they cannot compete on both domestic and continental fronts, especially when you consider that this is almost the same squad that limped to a fifth-place league finish under Antonio Conte last season.
When a new manager comes into a club, there is usually a transition period as personnel needs to be changed and new systems are implemented. What is perhaps surprising here is the fact that new man Sarri has not felt the need to make wholesale changes. Instead, the changes that have been made have been incredibly impactful. Take, for example, the arrival of midfield general Jorginho who also made the move from Napoli in the close season. He, like his manager, has taken absolutely no time at all in which to settle into new surroundings.
And the same can also be said for that of fellow midfielder Mateo Kovacic. The Croatian, who has joined on a loan deal from Real Madrid, has undoubtedly had a positive influence on a Chelsea midfield that lacked ignition last season.
If Chelsea can make light work of the teams in the lower reaches of the table, then it will be the clashes against the ‘Big Six’ which will decide the destination of the championship. Should they come out on top more often than not, then it could well be a second league title in three seasons for the Blues.