Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side have stormed to the top of the Premier League this season. After last night’s win against West Ham, the Blues are now 10 points ahead of closest rivals Tottenham.
With 11 games left this term, it looks like it will take something special to stop Chelsea securing their fifth Premier League title.
Their form this season is a stark contrast to that of last year when the Blues finished in 10th. Something drastic has changed, and we’ve picked five key reasons that suggest Chelsea won’t be stopped.
1) Antonio Conte
Italy reached the quarter finals of the tournament, losing only to world champions Germany on penalties. Conte’s team played some stunning football as well, and many were interested to see how well he could do back in club management.
However, few could have predicted how quickly the 47-year-old would adapt to English football.
He arrived to a toxic dressing room, still hurting from the embarrassment of the previous year. The former Juventus boss made a solid start playing a system the players favoured, but following a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September, he decided to give it a go his way.
Switching to a 3-5-2 formation, employing effective wing-backs, Chelsea stormed to 14 straight wins, equalising the league record.
They’ve only lost three games all season, and only one since the change of system, suggesting that Conte’s cracked England’s top division on his first try.
2) N’Golo Kante
Conte wasn’t the only arrival at Chelsea last summer. Leicester City midfielder Kante joined the Blues for £32 million after driving his former team to the title against all odds. He was named in the PFA Team of the Year following impressive displays throughout 2015/16 for the Foxes before moving to London.
Just a few months into this season, it became clear just how big a role the Frenchman plays in his team. Leicester are now battling relegation whereas Chelsea, who were so far off the mark last season, are now chasing another title.
He may not get the same glory as a striker, or even a creative midfielder. But the role he plays is just as important, breaking up opposition attacks with tackles and interceptions to set up a counter of his own.
If Chelsea do win the league in May, look no further than Kante for a player-of-the-season candidate.
3) Remaining fixtures
With 11 games left, the title is Chelsea’s to lose. Rivals can only hope that they drop 10 points while remaining unbeaten themselves. But, with only a few tough fixtures left, it looks unlikely that the Blues will slip up.
They’ve already played Tottenham, Liverpool, and Arsenal twice, but do host Manchester City and go away to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United over the next few weeks.
One other game that stands out as being tough is a trip to Everton in April. Six of Chelsea’s 11 remaining games are against opposition currently in the bottom half of the table, and seven of the 11 will be played at Stamford Bridge. Therefore, a major slip up looks unlikely.
However, the likes of Stoke, Swansea, and Leicester are all in good form, meaning anything can happen. Stoke have not lost a home league game since mid-November, so Conte’s side must still be wary of that.
4) Fighting on two major fronts
Although missing out on Champions League football is a disappointment for a club like Chelsea, no European football did ensure that they could concentrate solely on domestic competition.
The likes of City, United, Arsenal and Spurs all played in Europe from September to February, and the extra fixtures no doubt strained domestic performance.
All those sides are still alive in the FA Cup until at least this weekend, along with the Blues.
5) Fixing last year’s mistakes
Under Mourinho and Guus Hiddink last year, Chelsea were very poor. However, the club only made a few signings in the summer, yet their form this season is a revelation.
Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have starred this term after struggling during 2015/16. The Spanish striker has 16 goals in 24 top-flight games and after a blip in January, is scoring again. Hazard has been similarly impressive, chipping in with a combined goal/assist tally of 14 in the Premier League.
Whatever the problems were, Conte and his players have put them far behind, with Chelsea’s superstars fulfilling their potential once again.
Everything seems to have fallen into place for the Blues this season, and with just 11 games left, there’s little to suggest anyone can stop Chelsea crowning Conte as king of England in his first season abroad.