It may be only the beginning of February, but Chelsea are already looking set to run away with the Premier League title this season.
The Blues hosted Arsenal on Saturday in what promised to be a mouth watering match up between the two bitter rivals. Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over Chelsea in September, however, awakened a slumbering giant, as the loss to the Gunners made Antonio Conte switch to a back three for the first time. Since then, Chelsea have won 15 out of 17 games with the new system.
After Liverpool failed to beat Chelsea at home on Tuesday, it was Arsenal’s turn to try to stop the monster they created. It was also an opportunity to show that after many seasons of failure, this is the year for the Gunners to seriously challenge for the title.
However, their evening at Stamford Bridge ended miserably as they fell 3-1 while being completely dominated throughout the match. Not only are they now out of contention for the title, they might just miss out a place in top four with the two Manchester sides looking to swoop in.
Losing at home to an average Watford side during the week made the suspended Arsene Wenger tweak a couple of things, and the French manager decided to field a 4-3-3 to match up with Conte’s men. Although it worked briefly at the start, the game plan pretty much fell apart after Marcos Alonso broke the deadlock for the hosts.
Alexis Sanchez wasn’t effective playing up top, while Mesut Ozil was invisible on both left-hand side of midfield and in the No. 10 role. With two of their best players isolated from the game and the manager up in the stands, Arsenal lacked belief and intensity on the pitch. They were miles apart from the ruthless side in September that gave Conte his worst defeat in six years.
Meanwhile, it is all smiles in the blue side of London. They have a nine point lead over the second place Tottenham, who have looked rather unimpressive in their last three games. The big players for Chelsea have truly been impressive for the club this season.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 4, 2017
For example, Eden Hazard looks like a player reborn under Conte, and Thibaut Courtois has been phenomenal and was even praised as the best in the world by the legendary Iker Casillas. David Luiz finally looks like a proper defender, Pedro Rodriguez has gotten his form back from his Barcelona days, and, most importantly, Diego Costa is disciplined and has been a nightmare for opposition defenses.
Not only have the players been brilliant individually, but collectively they are just as incredible. Everyone knows their role on the pitch, and they look very comfortable with or without the ball. Conte has taken the team which finished 10th last season and, without changing a majority of the players (apart from the addition of the superb N'Golo Kante), turned them into a near-undefeatable side.
With Liverpool having a horrific 2017, Pep Guardiola’s City looking hot and cold and Tottenham not looking at Chelsea's level, the title is already in Chelsea’s pocket. Unless the team suffers some sort of a breakdown, there is no chance of them losing their lead.
The only big takeaway from Saturday’s London derby is that the title race is truly over, and Chelsea’s win just goes to show just how dominant they are over their closest rivals.