Chelsea's win at the Etihad Stadium on Monday exploded any talk of the Blues not being good enough to compete against the top sides away from home, and also managed to fatally hole Manchester City's aura of invincibility on their own turf. The team remains unbeaten against the group of sides thought of as 'title contenders' back in August, but the fact that a group of supposedly invincible giants were thoroughly dismantled makes our defensive-minded games at White Hart Lane, Old Trafford and the Emirates look all the more like missed opportunities.
But regardless of whether we should regard that trio of away draws as six points dropped rather than three earned, it's probably time to look at the record of the supposedly top sides (sorry, Everton, but you didn't make the grade before the season started and so you don't get to crash the party now, Roberto Martinez or not) against one another. So let's take a peek:
Chelsea and Manchester City are well on top, and the only reason City aren't running away with it is because of losing home and away to us. Meanwhile, Spurs and Manchester United show that they never belonged, but Liverpool and Arsenal are still in the mix. But a simple table isn't the whole story, because the fixture list is unbalance. City have now played all of their 'big' home games but have only gone to Tottenham and Chelsea away. Let's take a look at the home and away charts too.
Unsurprisingly, City lead the way, but Chelsea have done well too. They've faced everyone but Arsenal and Spurs at Stamford Bridge and have won all three of their games there, two comfortably. There's a weird quirk of scheduling at work here too -- City don't have another home match against top opposition; Liverpool have four (including us during the run in). Since home games are easier than away, we can safely suggest that Liverpool's record against big clubs is deflated by the schedule, while the opposite is true for City.
Also, Spurs are, like, really bad. The fact that we only drew 1-1 at White Hart Lane is really embarrassing. Away next:
And here is where it looks a bit dodgy for Arsenal. They still have three 'big' matches yet to play away -- at Anfield, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane -- and they've lost the other two on the road. In fact, it's enormously rare to win away from home in this mini-league. City and Liverpool's both came during Tottenham implosions, Spurs was against United during their bizarre run earlier in the year, and Chelsea's was most implausible of them all.
What have we learned? To be honest, not a whole lot. These aren't the sort of numbers we can draw sweeping conclusions from, but they do put the title race (and, for the Liverpool/Spurs/United trio, the top four battle) into a little more context. Chelsea have a slight advantage in that we're done with City and only have one more major trip to make, but that can evaporate at any second.
But hey, context is nice.