10 Reasons Chelsea Will Win the EPL Title
In the opening few weeks of the English Premier League season, pundits and fans alike were raving about the fast-paced, fluid football of the two Manchester sides, who both looked impressive in every area.
While City and United were seemingly scoring goals for fun against the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal, Chelsea were struggling to beat West Bromwich Albion and were unconvincing in victory against a whole host of other teams.
It was being billed as a two-horse race between the two fierce rivals from the North West; the "nouveau riche" of City and the established nobility of United marshaled by Sir Alex Ferguson himself.
But in recent weeks, gaps have started to emerged in this premature thesis of a season dominated by Manchester.
Chelsea have been quietly improving every game with Andre Villas-Boas finding his feet fast in the English game.
I am boldly predicting that Villas-Boas' men will continue to get better and will emerge as the champions come May.
Here are 10 reasons why Chelsea fans should be incredibly optimistic with regards to the club's title chances.
1. No Pressure
With all the media focus on the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea have managed to slip under the radar and have quietly gone about their business without the usually intense scrutiny.
Everyone wrote Chelsea off for the title incredibly quickly and now the club are reaping the benefits of that underestimation.
They are no longer the favourites and that relieves a great deal of pressure from the team's shoulders. They have been winning comfortably without causing a media storm and starting to hit a groove with top-class performances in every department.
This lack of expectation from the press in terms of the title may prove to be a huge blessing in disguise for this new-look Chelsea team.
2. Short Passing Style
Andre Villas-Boas has already stated his ambition to emulate the "tika-taka" style of football employed by Barcelona and the Spanish national team.
"Tika-taka" is defined by short passing and quick off the ball movement, and Chelsea have excelled in possession this season.
The midfielders that Villas-Boas have put out this season are all comfortable on the ball and capable of maintaining possession.
Oriol Romeu, John Obi Mikel, Ramires, Frank Lampard and Raul Meireles have all demonstrated a willingness to keep the ball on the floor and exchange quick passes.
The retention of possession means that more chances will be created and the link-up play between the forwards, in particular Mata, Torres and Sturridge, has been exceptional.
The players are more determined to move into space than they were under Carlo Ancelotti, and the continual off-the-ball movement means that Chelsea never run the risk of appearing one-dimensional in attack.
3. Fierce Pressing
Another one of the traits that has etched Barcelona's place in the history books as one of the all-time great teams is their fierce pressing style that gives the opposition next to no time on the ball. It is extremely difficult to win possession against Barcelona, and its midfielders ensure it is equally hard to keep it by constantly closing down and pressuring the ball.
Chelsea have shown early signs of a similar pressing tactic with the full-backs in particular closing down the ball high up the pitch.
The pace of Cole and Bosingwa and the energy in midfield of Ramires and Lampard afford Chelsea the opportunity to close down without leaving gaps at the back.
But all defence has to start with the attack, and Torres has been eager to close down the opposition in their own defensive third this season.
If you also consider the willingness that wingers, Mata and Sturridge, have shown to track back and help out; then Chelsea are a formidable side to retain possession against for any extended period of time.
4. Confidence in the Manager
The team seems to have adapted well to the new footballing philosophy of their young Portuguese manager, Andre Villas-Boas.
His youth and inexperience at the top level was thought to be a potential stumbling block when it came to dealing with some of the bigger egos at Chelsea, but so far he has been excellent in getting the best out of his players.
He showed he is able to make the bold decisions by dropping Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard, and instead of alienating the dropped players, he spurs them on to come back better than before.
Lampard's hat trick against Bolton and Torres' standout performance against Genk are evidence of that.
He has also shown a determination to experiment with youth, as Oriol Romeu, signed from Barcelona, already looks a class act.
But it is with Daniel Sturridge where Villas-Boas' man-management capabilities have perhaps been most appreciated. The in-form Sturridge cited the trust shown by the manager and the first-team opportunities given to him so far as the key reasons for his rise in status.
But not only do the players seem to have confidence in AVB, but the chairman, Roman Abramovich, has seemingly given him more of a freedom in terms of selection and transfer policy than previous managers.
The Russian billionaire invested a lot of money in the young Portuguese and now seems content to let the "new Mourinho" conduct business in his own fashion.
5. Daniel Sturridge Continues to Improve
Daniel Sturridge has been mainly deployed on the wing this season by Chelsea despite the England youth international maintaining that his best position is striker.
But wherever he is utilised, anything he touches seems to be turning to gold at the moment.
He has scored four league goals in four games, including two in the 5-1 drubbing of Bolton and the winner at Sunderland.
He continues to improve and has looked dangerous from all angles with his wicked left foot and cultured finish.
Sturridge has also been able to combine well with whomever Villas-Boas picks to play alongside him in that front three—an important quality for an attacker
It is clear that Sturridge is going to be a huge star for Chelsea in the future and will play a huge role in their title challenge this campaign.
6. In-Form Fernando Torres
All the pieces are falling into place for Fernando Torres to finally enjoy a goal-scoring run with Chelsea Football Club.
The creativity behind him in midfield, coupled with the pace and touch of Daniel Sturridge, mean that the club will start to create more and more chances.
It is only a matter of time before Torres starts to hit the back of the net at a regular rate again, and after an outstanding performance against Genk, Premier League clubs should fear his return to action after his current suspension.
7. Creative Spark in Juan Manuel Mata
Juan Manuel Mata has already provided a creative spark in midfield and, with two goals in three matches, looks set to become a worthy investment.
His clever link-up play and wonderful brain make him a player capable of creating chances and bringing out the best in his countryman, Torres.
He is turning into one of the best overall signings of the summer, and he is already well on his way to becoming a Chelsea legend in the same bracket as Gianfranco Zola.
He can slot into the gap between midfield and attack, and is adept at unlocking defences with the greatest of ease.
8. Healthy Competition for Places
The amount of options available to Villas-Boas in defence, attack and midfield give Chelsea a considerable advantage.
The reincarnation of Bosingwa, who has finally started to once again display the form that made him one of the stars of the side, means that AVB has four world-class centre-backs to choose from in Terry, Alex, Luiz and Ivanovic.
The injury to Michael Essien was initially worrying but John Obi Mikel has been excellent this season, and he has been supported well by Ramires and Lampard.
The influx of new talent has also given Chelsea a new creative dynamic and a link between attack and midfield that they often lacked last season.
Up front, Torres, Drogba, Anelka, Sturridge, Kalou and Lukaku are all jockeying for a place in the starting lineup, which gives Villas-Boas various different combinations to unlock opposition defences.
9. Much-Needed Blend of Youth and Experience
Chelsea have been criticised in the past for fielding an aging side running out of time at the top level.
But the signings made by Villas-Boas and his selection policy of form over reputation has put an end to those days.
Drogba and Lampard are no longer guaranteed starters but their presence at the club can only help to influence younger players in a positive manner.
Chelsea's team spirit has always been laudable and the core of the team—Cech, Terry, Lampard, Cole and Drogba—are as loyal as they come.
Whereas it could be argued that Manchester City are a squad filled with overpaid mercenaries that care nothing for the club's identity, there is still a pride that all CFC players show when they pull on the royal blue shirt.
The experience of these players in season-defining situations will be crucial if Chelsea are to hold their nerve at the business end of the campaign.
10. Potential of Signing Luka Modric in January
Luka Modric is still a player very much within Villas-Boas' sights, and the transfer saga between Tottenham and Chelsea is not over.
If Abramovich does decide to open his chequebook once again in January to bring in Tottenham's highly rated playmaker, then it could be the final piece in the puzzle needed to cement Chelsea's status as champions-in-waiting.
Modric is a player that would slot seamlessly into this Villas-Boas team that has been built on quick passing and incisive movement.
The thought of Modric and Mata playing in the same team should send shivers of anticipation down the spine of any footballing enthusiast.