Chelsea are doing things rarely seen in the top flight, but Saturday’s win over Middlesbrough was not quite like the previous five wins and clean sheets.
10 - Premier League clubs have won 6+ games in a row without conceding on 10 occasions, with Chelsea responsible for half of those. Epic.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 20, 2016
We knew that Boro would not be easy to break down, but so were Southampton supposedly, and Chelsea didn’t have too much trouble there. Then again, with two sitters missed, a crossbar from Pedro, and several more half-chances, perhaps the scoreline was just a tad bit closer than the balance of play reflected.
xG map for Boro - Chelsea. Very impressive again from Conte's Chelsea in the 3421. pic.twitter.com/lnnOIloHf7— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) November 20, 2016
Of course, as long as just one goal remains the margin in a game, anything can happen. Middlesbrough snatched a draw in similar circumstances against Manchester City, but Chelsea’s defense held strong, and the one time it did get breached, Thibaut Courtois was there to keep his Europe-leading 7th clean sheet.
No goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets than Thibaut Courtois (7) in Europe's top 5 leagues this season. pic.twitter.com/purXT9a2YB— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 20, 2016
It all added up to an impressive performance from Chelsea once again, one that made head coach Antonio Conte very proud.
“I’m pleased because we won a game in a different way if you compare it to our past five games. We won only 1-0 against a strong team with good organisation. At the moment we had to suffer, we suffered, but we never lost our compactness. It’s very good.”
“We created chances to score the second goal, and it’s important to score the second goal and kill the game, because anything can happen until the end in this league, and above all today. When you are winning only 1-0 you have to pay attention until the end, because Middlesbrough could have got a draw, like against City.”
“Middlesbrough played a good game with good organisation. They put their best on the pitch, but in this period it’s very difficult to play against Chelsea.”
Difficult might be an understatement. We might be just a third of the way through the season, but genuine title talk abounds, and bookies are slashing their odds.
Conte: "Now I am very pleased, because I have special players with me."— Dan Levene (@danlevene) November 20, 2016
Conte isn’t getting drawn in on all that talk, but come the new year, we might upgrade our stated aims for the season from top four to something a bit nicer even.
“After two defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal, for sure it wasn’t simple to believe we would have six wins in a row, above all without conceding any goals. This league is very difficult to have success in and to win six games in a row is fantastic.”
“A month-and-a-half ago, after two defeats, Chelsea wasn’t a favourite or a team that can fight for the title until the end. Now it’s very difficult to change our opinion completely. It’s hard to say our target now. I want to wait until the second half of the season.”
“But I know, and the players and our fans know, that Chelsea might fight until the end for something.”
For now, the only thing that matters is next week and the massive derby against the league’s best defense.
“This game gives us confidence and increases our trust in what we are doing. Now it’s important to think about the next game against Tottenham, a tough game, a massive game. Middlesbrough is now the past for us.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC