Delayed by a match in order to somewhat balance out the games in hand, let's have a look how the title race is looking in the final month and a half of football:
Previous standings after 25 matches*:
Table after 29-31 matches*:
Man City -6pts
Man U -23pts
Recap of last matches:
Form: -3pts (-2, 0, 0, 0, -1, 0)
We did not start this block of matches too well with a draw at West Brom. This was followed by victories against Everton, Fulham and Tottenham, which were all expected. We were then somewhat robbed at Villa, but only suffered -1 point, as we were supposed to draw this match. The Arsenal thumping was expected by all means, however. -3 points means were the third best performers in this round behind City and Liverpool.
Form: (0, 0, 0, 0, +3, 0)
Liverpool have won against Fulham, Swansea, Cardiff, Southampton and Sunderland, though most of these were dependent on scoring many many goals, as their defense is non-existent. The win against Man U was unexpected giving them a +3. They have been the strongest in this block of matches and have taken the lead in this table.
Man City: -6pts
Form: +3pts (?, 0, +3, ?, 0, 0) - the question marks are postponed matches.
City haven't yet played their 5 matches, but all their current 4 have been victories - a lot of it against easy opposition (Fulham, Hull, Stoke). The +3 refers to the Man U match, which they were supposed to lose. (Its place in the form guide is the match week the game was supposed to be played). Overall City have been on a +3, but though they had a good run, a lot of it was against very weak opposition that posed no real threat. Actually, all of their matches were.
Form: -4pts (-2, 0, -3, -2, +3, 0)
Arsenal started off by drawing at home to Man U and continued this run with a loss to Stoke and a home draw to Swansea (postponed match). They regained 3 points, because Tottenham are in worse shape than they are currently, and their victory against Sunderland and humiliation by Chelsea were expected. They were the second worst performers in this run, which is usual for them at the end of a season.
Form: -4pts (+2, -3, 0, 0 , -3, 0)
Though definitely out of the title race, I will report on them just to keep it for consistency. Tottenham made up points by defeating Newcastle early on, but that was as good as it got for them. They quickly squandered these points by losing to Norwich. Their win against Cardiff and defeat at Chelsea were expected, but the loss at home to Arsenal was not. A bit of luck against Southampton ensured that they didn't lose any further points, performing exactly like Arsenal with a -4.
Man U: -23pts
Form: -5pts (+1, 0, -3, 0, -3, 0)
Continuing from the last block of 5 matches, Man U are again the worst performers with -5 pts. They started off well picking up a point against Arsenal. Wins against Crystal Palace, West Brom and West Ham were in line with expectations, but losing at home to Liverpool and City were not assumed results. Note: if Chelsea pick up 4 more points, Man U are mathematically out of the title race.
It still remains very close at the top with Liverpool having an easier run-in than the other teams (mainly due to the home matches). However, since Liverpool still has to play against Chelsea and Man City, this table can quickly turn if results go differently.
Let's have a look at the final run of the 3.5 main title challengers:
|Chelsea||Exp. Result||Man City||Exp. Result||Liverpool||Exp. Result||Arsenal||Exp. Result|
|C. Palace (A)||W||Arsenal (A)||L||Tottenham (H)||W||Man City (H)||W|
|Stoke (H)||W||Southampton (H)||W||West Ham (A)||W||Everton (A)||D|
|Swansea (A)||D||Liverpool (A)||L||Man City (H)||W||West Ham (H)||W|
|Sunderland (H)||W||Sunderland (H)||W||Norwich (A)||W||Hull (A)||W|
|Liverpool (A)||L||West Brom (H)||W||Chelsea (H)||W||Newcastle (H)||W|
|Norwich (H)||W||C. Palace (A)||W||C. Palace (A)||W||West Brom (H)||W|
|Cardiff (A)||W||Everton (A)||D||Newcastle (H)||W||Norwich (A)||W|
|Aston Villa (H)||W|
|West Ham (H)||W|
Chelsea - we should do no worse than a 5-1-1 record in the remaining 7 fixtures. However, Swansea which was considered early on a mid-table team have been poor this season especially at home. As long as it doesn't hail in Wales, I believe that this result can be a win. A slight caveat though: we have lost away to Everton, Newcastle and Aston Villa - the other mid table teams. Hopefully this pattern doesn't continue. The other fixtures should be straightforward as most of these teams have significant deficiencies. Stoke have been dangerous but we should deal with them. A 6-1-0 record based on our historic performances is not implausible.
Man City - have a very tough fixture list during which they have the possibility to make up points lost early in the season. With Arsenal and Liverpool being the obvious difficult matches (though Wenger will most likely make it easy for them), they also have tough fixtures against Villa and West Ham that can play quite well on their day. The Sunderland match has also been a banana peel team for them. The predicted form is 6-1-2, while a 6-2-1 does appear probable.
Liverpool - based on the expected results, they are supposed to go on (another) massive 7-0-0 run and if other results go as expected, they would win the league. However, it is very unlikely a team can go 7 wins a row, especially as that would extend their streak to 14 wins - this is only possible in leagues such as Bundesliga and La Liga. Naturally the games that jump out are Man City and Chelsea, but if their scoring is not in gear, the matches against West Ham and Newcastle will not be strolls through the park. Realistically, one can expect Liverpool to go 4-1-2 or 4-2-1.
Arsenal - most likely out of it, as the gap is too great, but Arsenal are expected to go 6-1-0 in the last matches. Two tough matches against City and Everton, as well as difficult games against Newcastle and West Ham, suggest that they will not be able to achieve that record. Personally, I see them going 3-3-1 with the way they are currently playing giving Everton a real shot at Champions League football.
It's definitely an exciting/nervous finish to the season (better than the last two seasons in the league). My final post will come after the season, as a summary of the whole season, how this methodology performed and most importantly, an overall season assessment of Chelsea based on these forecasts.
Lastly, here is the table from last season after 30 matches:
Man U +3pts
Man City -13pts
Man U's demise is impressive - from being the best last season to not only being the worst this season, but they also would have been the worst if this team played last season. They are 26 points worse off. On the other hand, we are 14 points better in comparable matches, Liverpool are 20 points better, while Man City, Arsenal and Tot are marginally better.
*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).