A title for Chelsea is essential as they build for the future

For the majority of the Premier League season, Chelsea seemed to have established an unassailable lead in the race for the title.

Antonio Conte has reinvigorated a side that disappointed last season, introducing an expansive and attacking brand of football. Yet recent results have eroded some of their confidence, with Tottenham Hotspur nipping at their heels.

Chelsea’s slump 

It is only a slump in relation to the rest of Chelsea’s season. They have suffered two defeats in their last four matches, a record not traditionally considered disastrous form. The 2-0 defeat at Manchester United was far from a shock, as former Chelsea hero Jose Mourinho has eventually managed to instil his characteristic determination into the Red Devils as they proved difficult to break down. United welcomed Chelsea on the back of 21 unbeaten league matches, so confidence was high and fear was low at Old Trafford. But the 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace was considerably more discomforting for Chelsea.

Image courtesy of Crystal Palace Football Club

Many wrote it off as an anomalous result, with the form of the two sides heading into the match at polar opposites. Few expected Palace to steal three points. This is reflected in research delivered by Betway Sports as they supplement their sports betting with statistics that will advise caution for Chelsea fans. The study focuses on the biggest overachievers and underachievers of the Premier League season, and presents the most surprising victory of each team’s season. Palace’s display at Stamford Bridge represents their most remarkable victory, whilst Arsenal’s 3-0 triumph against Chelsea is the only instance in which the Gunners have seized three points at odds higher than 8/11. This brace of results demonstrates that Chelsea are not invulnerable to producing subpar displays against sides lacking in confidence.

Spurs’ title charge

This is a worrying caveat for what on paper is a kind run of fixtures for Chelsea to conclude the season with. Chelsea are set to welcome relegation favourites Sunderland and Middlesbrough, as well as London rivals Watford, to Stamford Bridge. Few will expect anything other than three points for the Blues in each match, with Eurosport predicting that Chelsea will ultimately claim the title and triumph in all remaining home fixtures. Yet the pressure invited by a rampaging Spurs side will ensure that fixtures against relegation fodder will be treated with trepidation.

Spurs have romped to consecutive 4-0 victories in the league and are enjoying a run of nine straight victories in domestic competitions. It has been another stellar season for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. Their recent displays, in particular, have transformed a title race from what seemed like a formality into a battle that commentators such as Gary Neville are declaring could go down to the last day of the season. Spurs will be hoping that Chelsea’s recent slump endures, as they are now in the perfect position to capitalise. Chelsea approach the remaining six league matches knowing that a title is imperative if they are to keep their best players.

Building for the future

Star performers Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante and Thibaut Courtois will be coveted by the world’s leading clubs. Hazard has been reinvigorated under Conte’s stewardship. The Italian manager has implemented a system enabling Hazard to operate at his peak, with statistics at highlighting this freedom as the Belgian is now taking an average of 2.1 shots per league match compared to 1.2 in the last campaign. Hazard is the dangerman, and Conte has ensured that he is in a position to deliver the most damage.

It would take record-breaking fees to prise Hazard or other key players away from Stamford Bridge, but Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG would not shy away from such a financial outlay. Yet Chelsea are in a position of strength, with Conte hoping to build a legacy in London. Conte arrived with a reputation as an impressive tactician and someone who could thrive on the pressure that the Chelsea job creates.

Featured image courtesy of Chelsea Football Club, with thanks

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