As we enter the business end of season, let's have a look at how the teams have been performing in the quest for the title:
Previous standings after 20 matches*:
Table after 25 matches:
Man City -9pts
Man U -18pts
Recap of last 5 matches:
Form: +1pt (0, 0, -2, +3, 0)
Chelsea have surged to the top in this table as well as the actual table. And this has been expected. We have been prancing around near the top of the table for a while now. We have continued the trend from my last post, when we gained 1 point, and similarly gained 1 point over this 5 match span. Two early straightforward wins against mediocre opposition at home (against Hull and Man U) started us off quite well. An unlucky draw against West Ham cost us 2 points and temporarily dropped us to 4th place in this table. But the quality of the team ensured that we gained 3 unexpected points against City (taking 3 of their expected points). This was followed up by an easy win over Newcastle meaning Chelsea were the best team in this 5 match span with a +1.
Form: -4pts (0, -2, 0, -2, 0)
Liverpool were very impressive up to matchweek 20. Their last 5 matches were not very good. The two draws with the Midlands teams (Villa and West Brom) cost them 4 points. Wins against Stoke, Everton and Arsenal, though impressive were expected. They still pose a threat to us as they have an easier schedule than we do (not to mention no Champions League). Most of their big games are at home. But two points in the current 6 point difference are valid and if everyone performs as expected, we will remain ahead of them. They were the second worst performing team in this round with a -4.
Form: 0pts (+2, 0, -2, 0, 0)
Arsenal are our second closest rivals. They have a slightly tougher schedule than we do judged by the fact that we should be 2 points ahead of them rather than 1. They started this round of well with an unexpected win over Villa which gave them an additional 2 points. A win against Fulham was expected, but the draw against Southampton was not - that cost them the two gained. A win over Palace and a massive loss to Liverpool was also in line with expectations. They were the second best performers with 0 points this round.
Man City: -9pts
Form: 0pts (+2, 0, +3, -3, -2)
Man City are quite unstable. They have been on a surge of gaining points lately, but this round was not that successful. Man City regained 2 points by defeating Newcastle away, followed this up with a win over Cardiff and an unexpected away win against to Tottenham gaining 3 points. This positive run came to a dramatic end. Getting outplayed by Chelsea at home, meant they lost 3 points and then they quickly lost another 2 against Norwich. They performed as expected in this round of 5 matches, though it was done in an unexpected manner. At -9, 6 points behind us, Man City face a much tougher schedule than we do, as in the actual table they are only 2 points behind us.
Form: -3pts (0, +2, -3, -2, 0)
Tottenham continued to drop points in this round. A win against Palace was expected, but the win against Swansea was not, gaining them 2 points. However, they dropped points to City and then to Hull. Today's lucky win against Everton was expected. Thus they ended with -3 for this, the third worst team. Their chances of ending in the top four appears to depend on Liverpool collapsing (i.e. losing easy games) or Man City performing slightly worse than they should.
Man U: -18pts
Form: -5pts (0, 0, 0, -3, -2)
Man U have continued their slide to mediocrity. They only had two positive results this round - a win against Swansea and Cardiff, both home games. They lost away to Chelsea (though that was expected) and they got schooled by Stoke at home. A hilarious draw against Fulham means that they are the worst performing team this round with -5. Interestingly, our 15 point gap to them is exactly as expected.
So we are now leading in both tables and it is up to us to ensure it stays that way. As this will be my penultimate post (there will not be much sense in posting one after match 35, as the title race will be quite clear) before the season ends, let's see what is ahead of us and what can we expect:
Chelsea - we have a relatively nice fixture list making it even more important we perform well. WBA, Fulham away should be easy; Everton and Tottenham at home could be tricky, but we now have Matic to strengthen the midfield, and the Villa game away is a chance to pick up 2 points.
Liverpool - an easy run of games (Fulham, Swansea, Sunderland, Southampton). Though it would be nice if Man U performed as expected for once and beat them in the last match of this round.
Arsenal - have a really difficult fixture list (including FA cup and Champions League). A home match against Man U should be a win for them, but who knows. This is followed up by Sunderland, Stoke, Swansea, and hopefully a loss to Tottenham.
Man City - they are fortuitous to have an easy fixture list - Sunderland, Stoke, Villa, Hull, Fulham. However they do have quite bit of fixture congestion - difficult matches against Chelsea, Barca and a final, as well as injuries.
Tottenham - quite a difficult 5 matches with Europa league in between. An away game to Newcastle should be a draw, while they also have to play Chelsea (away) and Arsenal at home. Hopefully they win the latter.
Man U - I feel that this is quite unnecessary now, at least from the title race perspective. But anyways - two big games against Arsenal and Liverpool where they hopefully can help us out.
History and facts:
The table last season after 25 matches:
Man U +3pts
Man City -9pts
It is obviously a much closer title race than last season. Interestingly, Man City are in the exact same spot they were last year (so Pellegrini is not better than Mancini). Shockingly, Man U are worse than the worst team of these six last season. Also, how awful were we under Benitez last season? Could you imagine battling it out right now with Man U for 7th? In between matches 20 and 25, we went -7 points last season - a draw with Southampton and Reading, and a loss to Newcastle (they were 16th last season).
Some other stats:
- Team which has overperfromed the most times - 4, Chelsea (Man U, Tot, Arsenal, Man City) - we are not tied with anyone anymore
- Team which has underperformed the most times - 9, Man U (Chelsea, WBA, Southampton, Cardiff, Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham, Stoke, Fulham)
We are in a very good position with 13 matches to go. I will give another update after the next 5 matches, though there might be a slight mismatch caused by scheduling issues - some teams might have already played 31 matches by then. I will present the last 8 matches and what should be expected of them.
It is quite clear that the table has broken into two groups - the top four and the other two. Man City are still quite a bit adrift of us, but one unexpected win and they are within 3 points. They have an easy fixture so they could still be close in the actual table come match week 30. But the last 8 matches will be nightmare for them (jumping the gun on my upcoming post - they will have Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool and Everton away in that span of games).
It is quite a good feeling being a Chelsea fan right now, isn't it?
*Methodology: I assume that 91pts will guarantee winning the league. To get this total - win all games vs bottom 10 (60pts), win and draw away against mid-4 (Villa, Everton, Newcastle, Swansea) (16pts), win and lose away against the top 6 (15pts). This table shows how much the teams deviate from this target (i.e. a team with -2pts is on course to get 89pts, 2 short of 91).