The phrase “it is theirs to lose” has been overused many times to describe Premier League title races down the years. So what are the potential hurdles for the team of 2016/17 that could still see them slip-up on the way to the title? And how does the current season compare to those of the past?
There are a number of ‘hidden’ statistics that give you some indication as to what it takes to win the Premier League title. For instance, in the past five seasons no title winning side has:
- Lost more than three games against top five rivals
- Lost more than six games overall
- Drawn more than 12 games
- Lost more than an average of one home game throughout the season
- Lost more than three games against teams in the bottom half of the table.
But it’s not just about what title-winning sides have done, key to success is picking up points, and on average across the past five seasons title-winners have grabbed an average of 51 points against the bottom half of the table and 35 points against the top half.
No doubt it’s been a phenomenal season for Chelsea, with a near-record run of 13 unbeaten games broken by Spurs at the beginning of 2017. And after a poor campaign last time out it’s worth remembering before the season started that betting sites had them pegged at around 13/2 to win the title.
A look at the table by results so far this season shows just how dominant Chelsea have been, with the joint lowest number of draws in the league and the best goal difference.
Hitting the threshold of three losses against top five opponents already this season, does make things interesting – but all things considered Chelsea are well on their way to achieving the required points totals against top and bottom-half opponents.
So how does all of this compare to the previous title-winning side of 2014/15? In that season Chelsea only lost three times, but only one of those losses was to a top five side. Spurs won at White Hart Lane 5-3, with the other two losses to clubs in the bottom half of the table.
Chelsea were also unbeaten at home for the entirety of the season and bagged 50 points against sides in the bottom half of the league, a number that is slightly below the five season average of 51.
A tally of 37 points against opponents in the top half of the table beat the average of 35 though, with seven of the nine draws that season coming against stronger opposition.
The tally of draws (there have only been a remarkable three this season) highlights the difference in managerial style between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. For Mourinho winning at all cost was key, and as he does now at Man United, the Portuguese would often focus more on preventing the other side from scoring than playing attractive attacking football.
Conte’s swashbuckling Chelsea side have already scored 59 goals, and look set to beat the total of 73 that the side of 2014/15 hit.
A change in style but what will likely be the same outcome: Premier League Champions. The only question now for Chelsea fans, is which do they prefer? I’m sure it won’t be too hard to find many Conte converts within the fan base.