Chelsea FC have made a storming start to their Premier League season, winning all but one of their opening six games.
Even that one draw was against Liverpool at Anfield, one of the most difficult grounds for any team to go and get points. And they also did it playing with ten men for over 45 minutes, following Reece James’ controversial red card for handball on the line.
Chelsea didn’t even look that troubled by the fact that they went down to ten men. They lost some of their attacking impetus but still denied Liverpool any clear cut chances, an extremely impressive feat against Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Thomas Tuchel has got his Chelsea side well-drilled defensively, and with the quality they have at their disposal upfront, it is clear for all to see that Chelsea are title challengers.
However, it can be argued that they are actually one step ahead of that. Chelsea should consider the Premier League theirs to lose this season.
Last season Chelsea already proved they could win trophies, as they lifted the Champion League for the second time in their history, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final courtesy of a Kai Havertz goal.
Chelsea are bloody good.
— Gary Lineker ? (@GaryLineker) September 19, 2021
Now Chelsea have added Romelu Lukaku, one of the best strikers in world football, to their ranks this season, to complete a squad that was only missing one piece of the puzzle. His start to the season reaffirms that they should have a 20 league goal striker on their hands, while the options to support him are also very good.
Timo Werner, Mason Mount, Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic. All players with genuine quality.
If you look at centre midfield, Chelsea have three players who are proven and each have a unique but effective skillset. N’Golo Kante, one of the best ball-winners in world football. Mateo Kovacic, effectively press-resistant. And Jorginho, who has an amazing passing range and is the winner of the Euro 2020 and Champions League player of the tournament awards.
Then you have the defence. The wing-backs are aggressive in attack and strong defensively, especially on the right-side. The centre-backs are well balanced with a plethora of experience, aggressiveness, composure and ball-playing ability. And behind them you have one of the best shot-stoppers currently in world football in Edouard Mendy.
Chelsea have a complete squad with all the attributes to make them Champions. But what about their rivals?
Well starting with reigning champions Manchester City, they are missing one piece.
City, for all their attacking prowess, are lacking a top-class striker. A player who can sniff goals out of nowhere such as a Lukaku.
It was well documented that City went in for Harry Kane (as per the Telegraph and others), but that move never materialised. City spent big on their defence last season, and plugged the hole left by Vincent Kompany with Ruben Dias. This year they have tried to plug their Sergio Aguero hole with a Kane, but failed to do so and have already been punished for it.
Results like the stalemate against Southampton could end up being a frustrating and reoccurring event for The Cityzens this year, but still expect them to push all the way.
On the other side of Manchester, Man United are also lacking a piece of the puzzle, but in a different position.
United are in the unique position of being the only side in last years top six without a truly recognised top-class defensive midfielder.
They have bolstered their attack and central defence with the acquisitions of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and a certain Portuguese forward named Cristiano Ronaldo, but despite this, they lack the necessary quality in midfield to play the way they want.
Fred and McTominay do offer a lot of work rate in the middle of the park but are collectively not good enough on the ball. On the other hand, Nemanja Matic is excellent on the ball, but is now far too immobile to offer the defensive cover needed to shield the defence and dominate a midfield.
This leads to United looking disjointed in their build-up and looking more like a team of individuals rather than an actual team. United will need to fix this in January if they want to push all the way, as individual moments will only take you so far in a league campaign.
Liverpool is probably the most well-balanced team out of those already mentioned bar Chelsea.
Jurgen Klopp has cultivated a side who play nice football and are defensively solid for the most part.
However, Liverpool’s downfall is their squad depth. Virgil van Dijk is probably the best defender in world football at the moment, so it goes without saying that when he is fit they are far better. But behind him, while the options are still good, they are not fantastic.
Joel Matip is somewhat injury-prone, Joe Gomez has some big flaws in his game and Ibrahima Konate is unproven in Premier League, though showed promise on his debut.
At full-back, behind Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, the options are far from what Liverpool need in the position they create most of their chances from.
The midfield is hard-working and dynamic even if it is lacking in creativity. Up front, Liverpool could ill-afford to lose talisman Mohamed Salah.
While Sadio Mane would be capable of leading the scoring, his form has been inconsistent since the start of the pandemic and Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino would be unlikely to get anywhere near as many goals as the Egyptian.
With the weaknesses of each squad obvious for all to see, Chelsea should be in pole position to land the league title this season.
They are tactically flexible, excellent defensively and very strong going forward. Chelsea should consider anything but a title this season as an underachievement.
The title race this season could be one of the very best we have ever seen. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype.
Four-way title race until the last day anyone?