For the longest time it looked as though there wouldn’t be a title race in the Premier League as Chelsea pulled out in front and started to put breathing space between them and the others. The chasing pack stuttered through its fixtures whilst Chelsea notched win after win to put themselves in a commanding position by Christmas. The challenge by Guardiola’s Manchester City never materialized as he woke up to the severity of the situation he faces whilst Jose Mourinho struggled to get his new look Manchester United side to convert a draw into a win on too many occasions. Arsenal’s off field “Will he go, won’t he go” saga with Arsene Wenger derailed their push early on whilst Liverpool’s patchy away form stalled Klopp’s chances of lifting the trophy for now. That left Tottenham as the only potential suitor who could catch Chelsea and wreck their title party. The race was on with the two best teams in the league going full pelt for the finish line.
It is debatable which team; Chelsea or Tottenham is the best in the Premier League. Many favour Spurs purely based on their attractive brand of football that has produced a similar amount of goals as their south London rivals but at the same time leaked less at the back. Added into this, Pochettino’s men are on fire with a recent run of nine straight wins putting them firming back into the title race. But its Conte’s side that holds top spot and have everything to lose. Four points separate the two going into the last four games. On paper, Tottenham have the harder run in with West Ham, Manchester United, current champions Leicester and Hull still to come. Chelsea on the other hand face Middlesbrough, West Brom, Watford and relegated Sunderland. Whilst its hard to see Tottenham dropping points at this stage based on their current form, its equally hard to see where Chelsea will slip up; conceding the points that Spurs would need to overtake them.
Last Sunday’s trip to Goodison was the potential banana skin that lay in wait but Chelsea simply side stepped it with a stellar second half performance and walked away with a comfortable three points. Spurs did their part to keep things interesting with a strong 2-0 victory over Arsenal ensuring the first season in 22 attempts that they will finish above their other London rivals. It also put them onto 77 points, the most points the club has ever achieved. Twelve points still remain so Tottenham could finish on a club record breaking 89 points and still not end up as champions. Only Manchester United (92-93, 99-00, 08-09), Arsenal (03-04) and Chelsea (04-05, 05-06) have finished with more points. What that means is that this tally would have been good enough to win the league in 14 of the past 25 seasons (plus potentially a further five more title depending on what their goal difference will be at the end of the campaign).
That itself is an illustration of how good Chelsea have been this year. Relentless to the end in many ways. Conte will be aiming for full points as well which would see Chelsea finish on 93 points. That would be three points better than Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2003-2004 (who went unbeaten the entire season) and only two points worse off that the current points holder, Chelsea who in Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge secured the title with a staggering 95 points (they lost only once but drew eight times much to the Special Ones annoyance).
Conte’s side have lost five times this season but have drawn considerably less games than Mourinho’s team hence the points gap but the argument can be made that the league has changed and become harder to win in recent years making Conte’s achievements all that more special. Conte will be hoping that he can steer his team over the finishing line in style and in doing so become only the fourth Italian manager to lift the premier League following in the footsteps of Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea), Roberto Mancini (Man City) and of course last years surprise winner with Leicester Claudio Ranieri.
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