Beating the elite teams may not be a requirement for Chelsea’s EPL title hopes

N’Golo Kante and Chelsea are dominating.

N’Golo Kante and Chelsea are dominating.
Image: Getty Images

The regular season mattering is fun. It lets you celebrate wins over everyone because every game means something. Chelsea have been able to celebrate two more times than any other team in the Premier League. They’re only three and five points clear of Liverpool and Man City, but in a race that values consistency over all else, Chelsea’s defense has helped them avoid dropping points to any teams not named Liverpool or Man City.


In the eight games against the teams that aren’t their biggest threats, they’ve had seven clean sheets and allowed one goal total. There are 68 synonyms for the word incredible, and all of them would be suitable to describe Chelsea’s 24-1 goal differential against the teams they’re supposed to beat.

They dispatched Newcastle, 3-0, with similar ease Saturday, holding onto the ball nearly 80 percent of the time and ceding one shot on goal. Meanwhile, Liverpool were busy playing down to Brighton after smashing Man U 5-0 last week, and Man City continues to confound their followers and themselves after losing to Crystal Palace 2-0 at the Etihad.

Liverpool’s defensive (and mental) lapses are largely responsible for Liverpool’s hiccups against Brentford and Brighton. There’s no discernible pattern to Man City’s outcomes; they’re the only team to beat Chelsea, lose to Tottenham and Palace, and draw Liverpool and Southampton. Saturday’s game was equally strange, losing at home after a red card dropped them to 10 men, and their equalizer got disallowed by VAR. (I laughed.)

But not Chelsea. The team’s calm, focused demeanor reflects its coach, who offered his best coach speak when asked if seeing his rivals drop points made the win even sweeter.

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“First of all it’s far too early and second of all we want to focus on ourselves,” Tuchel said after the game. “What goes around comes around. There’s a long way to go. If you think we are even happier this is absolutely not true.”

It’s that kind of measured approach — and some impressive tactics — that leads to consistent success despite being without the injured Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner. His players clearly trust and listen to him.


It also helps to have world class players and immensely wealthy owners, but those are never really questions at Chelsea. Usually, when a team with those resources is on its way back to competing for trophies, it starts with winning their domestic league because, in theory, it’s easier when you don’t have to outright beat the best teams. (See: Guardiola, Pep) Chelsea already did that under Tuchel and now seem OCD-ly focused on getting back to the top of the Premier League.

And that focus is as crisp as their shape — and even if it’s not enough to beat their peers, they may not have to.

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