Can anybody stop Manchester City from successfully defending their Premier League title?
For the past decade or so, that’s been the perennial question for English football fans as the club continues to dominate the domestic competitions and have established themselves as a noteworthy name in the world of sports. This is because there’s not a huge queue of teams lined up with the potential to derail City’s hopes. Their Manchester rivals, fresh from splashing the cash on the likes of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane with some impressive business in the market, might be considered one option but is their squad deep enough to maintain a title push?
The general consensus is that Liverpool are regressing rather than progressing, while the chance of a Leicester City-style ‘surprise’ championship run seems highly unlikely. So that leaves one plausible candidate: Chelsea. Given how the Blues have developed since Thomas Tuchel took charge of on-pitch matters at Stamford Bridge in January, you can only surmise that the Londoners are the main threat to Manchester City’s dominance in the Premier League.
Points Make Prizes
After Tuchel was appointed, Chelsea claimed 38 points from their remaining 19 Premier League games at a nice-to-work-out average of two points per game.
Extrapolate that across a whole season, and the Blues still would have finished second to City in the title race, their theoretical tally of 76 points still ten shy of the champions. However, it was notable in their head-to-head meetings that Tuchel had something of a tactical edge on Guardiola, and if that theme continues in 2021/22, then Chelsea could dominate their two Premier League games against their main rivals. How important could that prove to be in the final shake-up?
In May, Chelsea defeated City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium courtesy of goals from Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso, a game that saw two more goals for the Blues chalked off due to being offside. Additionally, that victory had come just three weeks after the Blues defeated the lighter blues in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Following this, a matter of weeks later, Tuchel completed his own personal hat-trick against Pep with the biggest win of them all: Kai Havertz’s goal ensuring the Champions League trophy would be housed at the Bridge for the next year.
The clear advantage that the Chelsea boss seems to have over his Manchester City counterpart will be worth little if the Blues aren’t consistent in their other Premier League games. It’s simply not enough for them to be raising their game only for clashes with City. Having witnessed them dropping points against the likes of West Brom, Southampton, and Brighton under Tuchel’s lead, you can see why the bookmakers are so reluctant to go against Manchester City.
At present, Manchester City stand firm as the ultimate favourites to be the Premier League outright winners in the football betting odds at 6/5. Meanwhile, Liverpool are the third-favourites at 9/2 and Chelsea are the second-favourites at 7/2. Many pundits suggest Pep’s side will have a monopoly on the trophy, with some football writers predicting that Chelsea will finish as low as third in the table. Though these predictions are made with the best of intentions, the truth is that if Tuchel can continue to dominate his personal battle with Guardiola, and the Blues find consistency in the humdrum Premier League games as well as the big encounters, they have an excellent chance of dethroning the champions.
One of the things that Chelsea fans can’t complain about is a lack of talent: their squad is brimming with it. Yet the job of Tuchel will be to get more from players that have been perceived to have underachieved during their time in London so far. Take, for instance, Timo Werner. In his final season at RB Leipzig, the German frontman contributed 32 goals, however, in his maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge, by contrast, he netted just six times.
You could file the likes of Havertz, Ziyech and Christian Pulisic in that ‘can do better’ category too, while it could be argued that Blues fans are still yet to see the best from Euro 2020 winning midfielder Jorginho.
There are rising stars that are learning their trade too, with Mason Mount making the most of his gifts as one of the finest midfielders in the land. Callum Hudson-Odoi, among others, will be hoping they get more of a chance to shine this term.
If Tuchel can unlock the potential of these would-be stars, Chelsea would improve from within without having to splash the cash on big-name signings. Chelsea conceded just 13 goals in their 19 Premier League games under Tuchel in the second half of last season, and if their misfiring frontline can hone their finishing more precisely then all of the ingredients are in place for the Blues to bring the Premier League trophy to London in 2022.