With six games remaining in the English Premier League this season, the battle for the top spot is all but over as we await the final whistle to blow on May 24. With Chelsea ten points clear of their nearest rival at this point of the campaign, it’s time to give The Blues their due and take a look at why they are so successful.
Jose Mourinho has been a manager in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, finding success in all four countries. While his nickname—“The Special One”—seems a bit over the top, he has an uncanny ability to get the most of a player’s talent in order to create and maintain a top-flight team.
Having previously managed Chelsea from 2004-07, many were unsure if his return to North London would again produce a winner. But after playing 32 games and losing only two, this season has been an unqualified success, despite not advancing deep into Champions League competition. Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United had to be especially satisfying, with the former student Mourinho besting former head manager Louis van Gaal from their days at Barcelona nearly two decades ago. With another two years left on his current contract, it’s difficult to see anything but continued success for The Special One.
Offensively, The Blues are currently tied with Manchester City for the most goals scored in the EPL (65). While Diego Costa leads the team with 19 goals scored, he has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, yet Chelsea has managed six points in that time frame. Behind Costa in scoring is midfielder Eden Hazard with 13 goals. Equally comfortable as a goal scorer and playmaker, this Belgian national team member has to be considered a strong contender for England’s Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award.
Another key playmaker in midfield is Cesc Fabregas, having had previous success in a similar role at Barcelona. Always looking ahead, it is likely that Oscar will be leaving the team in order for Chelsea to acquire Paul Pogba, thus further strengthening the team offensively. The only wild card is aging striker Didier Drogba, who at 37 years of age has said he will continue playing football next season. However, one might question whether or not he will be wearing a blue jersey in 2016.
On defense, Chelsea has held its opposition to just 26 goals, two behind Southampton, and they currently maintain a goal differential of +39, eight better than their nearest competitors Arsenal and Manchester City. While it is clear that a team must score goals in order to win (obviously), it is also true that defense wins games, and Chelsea’s back line is superb.
With Gary Cahill and John Terry anchoring the central defense and Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic manning the other fullback positions, the team has conceded only one goal in each of the last two games. It has been enough to reward Chelsea with six points in preparation for their Premier League trophy in May.
Let’s not forget Thibaut Courtois, who has displaced long-time Chelsea fan favorite Petr Cech as the team’s main keeper. While Mourinho has the utmost respect for Cech (who has maintained a professional demeanor while being displaced), the Belgian has done a stellar job in goal and is a key factor in Chelsea’s success. While Chelsea could hang on to Cech contractually, Mourinho has said publically that out of mutual respect he will allow Cech to make the decision as to whether to retain his role as a Chelsea back-up keeper or to seek a trade to allow for more playing time elsewhere. Expect Cech to be donning something other than a blue jersey after the season ends.
After Saturday’s victory against Manchester United, Mourinho reiterated that he won’t celebrate until the club is mathematically assured of winning the title, and they’ll likely need eight points (or less, even) in the final six matches.
Chelsea seem poised to lift the Premier League trophy this season. And the future seems bright as well.