In defense of Chelsea: The best team won, and looked just fine doing it
Chelsea are the champions of England, and anyone holding a gripe with the Blues’ title simply harbors some other form of resentment for the London club.
In some ways it pains me to say it -- in different ways, Diego Costa and John Terry are arguably more dastardly villains than Luis Suarez -- but there’s no question Chelsea are deserved champions, and the best offensive and defensive team in England.
And before we go any further, “looked just fine” refers to how they played with the ball, attacked and defender, not in how Jose Mourinho claimed an official’s conspiracy against Chelsea, nor in the Blues’ swarming of referees whenever Oscar decided to turn a foul into a near-fatal threat to his life.
“Boring, boring Chelsea” is the refrain being sung around critical circles this week and last, criticizing Mourinho’s unit simply by analyzing score lines without the back-up of proof.
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Consider the “false nine” 0-0 draw against Arsenal in late April, a match whose first-half alone could’ve seen three or four goals has Michael Oliver reached for his whistle on penalty claims at the Emirates Stadium. Chelsea looked just as dangerous as Arsenal despite not playing a true striker. This wasn’t some brash move from Mourinho, rather his answer to injuries to Diego Costa and Loic Remy.
And the Blues avenged both of their losses so far this season. After falling 2-1 at Newcastle, Chelsea handled the Magpies 2-0 at Stamford Bridge a month later. The wide-open, thrilling 5-3 loss to Spurs at White Hart Lane? Chelsea got its revenge with a comprehensive 2-0 win in the League Cup final.
The Blues have scored the second-most goals, just two shy of Manchester City, while allowing the fewest. They have a 13-point lead in the table and have won in almost any manner imaginable. More importantly, Chelsea has taken 13 of 21 points while giving a total of four to their Top Five rivals in head-to-head contests this season.
Chelsea vs. The Top Five
Arsenal: 2-0 (H), 0-0 (A)
Manchester City: 1-1 (H), 1-1 (A)
Manchester United: 1-1 (A), 1-0 (H)
Liverpool: 2-1 (A), Saturday (H)
Which team carries legit complaints? Arsenal will point to injuries and their perceived attacking style, but they’ve been blanked the Blues by five-straight occasions. In both losses this year, the Gunners managed a single shot on target. As for Arsene Wenger’s laughable thought that it’s easier to win when you’re in first, maybe that’s somehow true for Chelsea, but it hasn’t been the case for the Gunners.
Man City can claim it won a better-looking title last year, yes, but this year it lost to four teams that finished ninth or worse. Chelsea has one loss like that (to a then-contending Newcastle team which has since imploded). And that better-looking title came with a pair of losses to the Blues, but I suppose that’s digression. Pellegrini is also a man who claimed he had too much flair and not enough grinders at Real Madrid, so there’s that.
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As for Manchester United, you’ll remember that Louis van Gaal was faced with similar criticism during the 2014 World Cup run with the Netherlands, so we doubt he’d do anything but applaud his friend Jose.
I have a Dutch friend who will tell me this is a “very American” way of thinking, but Chelsea won matches in almost every way imaginable this season, and would’ve been foolish to keep up any sort of run-and-gun mentality with a big table lead and injured strikers.
The fact is that Chelsea is the best team in the Premier League, and accumulated more than enough style points on the journey to forgive a slightly more defensive style in securing the title.