Let’s just take a second to remember last year’s Premier League season. After 24 matchdays, the top spot in the table was held by Leicester City with 50 points. 21 points beneath the Foxes sat Chelsea. The Blues were on the road to recovery after an abysmal start to the season that saw Jose Mourinho axed from the club for a second time. When Manchester United was struggling, I always looked at Chelsea’s misery to make myself feel a little better.
Sadly, I can’t do that this season. After a “slow” start to the season under Antonio Conte, the London club have been nearly unstoppable. In their last 18 matches, they’ve won 16 times. In total, they’ve grabbed 49 of a possible 54 points. This unbelievable form has seen them ascend to the top spot in the table and leave every other team in the dust.
At the moment, Tottenham are closest side to Chelsea. All that separates them is, oh yeah, a nine-point gap. This time last year, Leicester only had a three-point lead on Spurs. This nine-point gap really starts to look insurmountable when you realize that no team has lead the league by more than seven points through 24 matches in the last 10 years.
Now that we’ve adequately hyped up Chelsea, I guess we should take a look at who could realistically challenge them down the final stretch of the season.
Tottenham (2nd, 50 pts.)
Spurs, just like last year, look like one of the best teams in the league. And just like last year, it’s not going to be enough to win them the league. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, when I say that Tottenham can’t win the league, it has nothing to do with how talented they are. I just don’t believe that Chelsea are going to slip up enough to give them a chance.
Tottenham have arguably the best group of young talent in the league and it feels like all of their stars have signed contract extensions. So while they may not be able to clinch the title this year, I think that it’s only a matter of time before we see the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen lifting the trophy. St. Louis fans that have started supporting Spurs to continue their feud with Arsenal/Rams owner Stan Kroenke should be optimistic.
Manchester City (3rd, 49 pts.)
I’m not really sure what to make of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City right now. At times, they look unbeatable, and then the next week, they get smashed 4-0 by Everton. It still kind of feels like Pep is struggling, or maybe even refusing, to adapt his style of play to the more physical Premier League, and inconsistent play has plagued their defense. Well I guess that, and the “underwhelming” play of Claudio Bravo between the pipes.
There seems to be a little bit more life at the Etihad since the arrival of Gabriel Jesus, but it’s too little too late. With this title race more or less out of reach, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pep focuses his attention on the Champions League, and planning for a better run next season.
Honestly, I think that those are really the only two teams that could even come close to challenging Chelsea in the final 14 match stretch of the season. I debated about including Arsenal on the list, but the Gunners have fallen apart in recent weeks, and it doesn’t look like they have a miracle run in them.
As much as I hate to predict a Chelsea title win, I would be stupid not to at this point. Conte has really made the team his own this season, and his tactical adjustments have been absolutely spot-on. I’d also like to note, however, that my colleague Drew Wendt promised he would never watch soccer again if Chelsea blew this lead so let’s just keep that in mind if this all goes south.