At this point last season the Premier League had eight teams in with a chance of the title; this year there appears just the one: Chelsea.
The Blues’ problem last season was in attack; this season they have Diego Costa. Jose Mourinho bemoaned the lack of a “real striker” in the 2013/14 campaign, yet Costa has 11 in 12 games so far this season (two of those 12 games he was injured).
Chelsea’s start to last season, at this stage they had 24 points and 21 goals for, compare that with their current tally of 32 points and 30 goals for.
The West Londoners had also by this stage lost two games – both of them in games they failed to score in. This time out, Chelsea are yet to draw a blank in any game, Premier League or cup competitions.
Those two defeats prior to December last year came at Everton and Newcastle, however that was a Chelsea mustering 1.4 goals per game away from home, this season we see a side scoring at a rate of 2.5 away from Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea netted 28 in 19 away league games in 2013/14; this season they’ve already 15 in six games, four of those six including trips to Anfield, The Etihad, Goodison & Old Trafford.
It’s easy to understand just why bookmakers have the Blues at 1/6 to lift the Barclays Premier League come May.
When considering the challengers to Chelsea’s title charge, the chasing pack looks bare. Manchester City & Southampton – for now – are the only two that can logically be considered.
City last season relied much on the goalscoring prowess of Yaya Toure & Sergio Aguero, the Argentinian leads the goalscoring charts by one from Diego Costa – Aguero has 12.
Yet the likes of Toure & Dzeko have found it harder to find the back of the net this time out.
Toure finished with 20 goals in City’s title winning campaign last time out, yet has just two goals so far this season, Dzeko sits on the same number.
The Ivorian finished third in the top scorers’ charts in 2013/14, yet currently doesn’t appear in the top 12 bookmakers have earmarked for 2014/15.
Southampton, arguably this year’s Liverpool – the surprise package – have shocked even themselves. Yet can the team who so many deemed more likely to contest relegation spots, truly challenge for the title?
So far the South Coast side have been scoring goals for fun – especially at St. Mary’s, however their first appearance on the box last Monday didn’t offer much to suggest they will last the course of the campaign.
Frazer Forster looked shaky; Toby Alderweireld isn’t a centre back; and there was little imagination from the three – Long, Mane & Tadic – that played behind Graziano Pelle.
Pelle has six in 12 league games thus far, and was undoubtedly a bargain at £6.3 million. However, to mount a title tilt, the Saints will need 25-30 goals from the Italian.
Pelle’s 23 and 27 in the last two Eredivisie campaigns may offer hope, yet a Suarez style campaign from the former Feyenoord man is unlikely & too much to expect from Pelle.
The Saints’ next three sees them play Manchester City, Arsenal & Manchester United, come through that with at least four points and then perhaps they can be considered Champions League hopefuls – nothing more.
Southampton sit at 50/1 for the title, expect that to move into triple figures come the end of December.
While the league is one of the most unpredictable we’ve ever known: United losing 5-3 at Leicester; Liverpool losing at Crystal Palace; Stoke winning at The Etihad, in truth there appear two leagues – Chelsea’s contest with themselves & then the rest.
What looks to be the only challenge for the Blues is how early they can secure the title.
Manchester United hold the record: winning the 2000/01 season with five games spare. While Chelsea themselves hold the – modern day – record number of points: 95.
The 00/01 season, United led by 10 points at Christmas. Chelsea currently sit six clear of Southampton.
With a difficult Christmas period for the Saints & an unpredictable Manchester City side, there is every reason to go into your pocket to back Chelsea to match the United lead of 10 points at Christmas.
Then also to put money on the side clinching the title, wait for it, as early as Easter.
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