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Are Chelsea actually getting better or has the fixture list just gotten easier?

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Chelsea have won 16 out of 19 matches against bottom 10 teams (win rate: 84%), winning only 4 out of 14 matches against top 10 teams (win rate: 28%)

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Chelsea have hit a bit of a purple patch lately in the Premier League, winning five of the last seven and losing just one. In fact, we’ve won three in a row and have kept two consecutive clean sheets, even, whereas not so long ago, keeping even one clean sheet looked near impossible. Does this mean that Chelsea have finally found their feet under Maurizio Sarri or has the difficulty of the fixture list simply decreased?


To help answer that question, let’s divide Chelsea’s Premier League into three parts: Rise, Fall and Resurgence.

The Rise includes Chelsea’s first dozen matches in the league under Sarri, when Chelsea, improbably were unbeaten.

The Fall begins with Chelsea’s first loss of the season, against Tottenham Hotspur, and continued through the low-point of the season, the 6-0 embarrassment at Manchester City.

The Resurgence begins there and continues through today, and maybe through Sunday as well.

In order to ascertain the difficulty of the fixture, we’ll divide the table in half, top-10 and bottom-10, taking the current league standings to judge the season-long consistency and quality. For example, West Ham were 20th in the league after losing four in a row to start the season, but their performances have gotten them back to 11th, proving that they’re a way better team than their early season form suggested.


The Rise (12 matches; 8 wins, 4 draws, 0 losses)

Chelsea got off to a great start in the league and were undefeated for the first 12 games of the season, winning the first five before the results were exposed as a bit of a sham and very much thanks to some very good luck.

Chelsea’s early season form

Out of those first dozen matches, Chelsea played four against the current top-10, winning just once, and eight against the bottom-10, winning seven.

Even that one victory against top-10 opposition, the 3-2 win against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, wasn’t convincing, with the Gunners missing a hatful of clear-cut chances in the first half to keep Chelsea in the game.


The Fall (14 matches; 7 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses)

The first loss arriving in matchweek 13 as Spurs completely exposed Chelsea’s tactics and dominated their way to a 3-1 win. Things only went downhill from there.

That loss to Spurs started a sequence of 7 wins in 14 league games, which included nightmarish results like a home defeat by Leicester City, a 4-0 loss against Bournemouth, a 2-0 loss to Arsenal, and 6-0 loss against Manchester City.

In these 14 matches, Chelsea played seven against the top-10, winning twice, and seven against the bottom-10, winning five times.


The Resurgence ( 7 matches; 5 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss)

With Sarri teetering on the brink, Chelsea almost pulled off great win over Manchester City in the League Cup final and used that confidence boost to a season-best performance against Spurs at Bridge, winning 2-0. Sarri even started tweaking his tactics, and giving increased playing time to the likes of Emerson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

In the last seven games, Chelsea have played three times against the top-10, winning once, and four times against bottom-10, winning all four.


Conclusion:

Over the course of the season, the pattern has been quite clear. Chelsea have struggled mightily against teams from the top-10, winning just 4 out of the 14 games (28% win rate. Meanwhile, Chelsea have won 16 out of 19 played against the bottom-10 teams (84% win rate).

Only one of Chelsea remaining five games are against the bottom-10.

If we are to finish top-four, the pattern will have to be broken. Can Eden, Ruben, Callum & Co break the wheel?