Chelsea’s forward Romelu Lukaku celebrates with his team aftger scoring the opening goal during the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup final football match between Brazil’s Palmeiras and England’s Chelsea at Mohammed Bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 12, 2022. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP) (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)
Chelsea’s season began with legitimate title ambitions. The Blues had just broken their transfer record to bring in superstar talisman Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan, months after their Champions League triumph over Manchester City. This—coupled with the Citizens’ failure to properly replace Sergio Aguero with a proper No. 9—made fans believe there was a chance at a competitive title race this season. Nobody was discounting another former English champion in Liverpool after the Reds returned a number of key players from injury either.
As the season has progressed, Coronavirus and injuries have combined to derail Chelsea’s title dreams in this season’s domestic campaign. The Blues scraped through a brutal winter period, barely managing to stay afloat amidst all of the squad issues. Meanwhile, Man City went on a long unbeaten run and Liverpool also continued to distance itself from the field of 18. This has left Chelsea in an awkward situation as it relates to the Premier League table. The Blues are in a world of their own right now, too far behind the true title contenders and sitting above the top four.
Chelsea’s awkward position makes for an interesting case study. There’s little doubt around the league that the newly-crowned Club World Cup winners are easily one of the country’s best. However, there is now a big enough gap opening up that suggests otherwise. In a one-off match, it’s become clear that the Blues can compete with any club in the world. The name of the game in the Premier League is consistency though, which is something they have been missing since the beginning of the winter festive fixture period.
Regardless of the ground they have to make up on those above them, it’s obvious that there won’t be any more direct pivotal games between Chelsea and the other two for the remainder of the current campaign. Chelsea has already played both ties against Man City and Liverpool, so six-point swing games are off the table, making it impossible for Thomas Tuchel’s men to make up ground. The Blues’ English top flight title hopes are officially on hold for at least another season.
On the other hand, Chelsea has built up a sizable gap between itself and the other teams fighting for a top four spot. This means there is a significant improvement on last year’s results, at least for the time being. The Blues have an ideal fixture list for the remainder of the year, but nothing is guaranteed in the Premier League. That said, the only way to make Chelsea’s schedule any easier from here on out would be to make Tuchel’s team play Tottenham 38 times per year.
There are very few bouts with the big boys remaining as things stand. The two teams above the Blues have already gotten their chances against Chelsea, as touched on earlier, which leaves only those below it. Amongst those teams, the Blues have already taken on Brighton and Tottenham twice. They will square off against just five of the teams in the top half of the table before the campaign concludes, three of those such games will be played under the lights at Stamford Bridge.
What does all of this mean?
Chelsea’s awkward league standing means it must find the motivation to turn up against even the top flight’s bottom dwellers. These are the very teams that have caused problems for the Blues in years past. They must not make the same mistakes again this season if they want to label themselves an elite European squad. The domestic quest has largely been a disappointment this year for one reason or another. Nevertheless, it’d become a full-blown failure if Chelsea somehow manages to give up its comfortable lead on the other top four candidates. The Blues need to position themselves above the top four race in order to grow on the last few seasons. The journey to becoming a legitimate title contender next season begins against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
What do you make of Chelsea’s league position? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!
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