22 out of 38 games have so far been played in the Premier League, and Chelsea sit a full eight points above the rest of the table. Given their recent run of form, including tying the Premier League record for wins at 13, it is difficult to imagine any other contender ending the season as champion. As if taking inspiration from Leicester City, Chelsea have been practically unstoppable. Could this be yet another season of Premier League miracles with a triumphant ending for another great underdog? Yes. In fact, the similarities between Chelsea and Leicester are really quite eerie.
First, Chelsea’s completely unforeseeable surge (or “resurgence,” if you want to be technical) up the leaderboard is extremely reminiscent of Leicester’s. After what some may call a strong start, Chelsea found themselves in a three way tie for 1st at the end of week 3. Yet, they would soon plummet to unfathomable depths, falling to 8th place by week 6.
But, like the blue team before them, Chelsea steadily and heroically plugged ahead. After a long spell outside of the top spot starting in week 4, Chelsea were back by week 12. Ostensibly, one may assume Chelsea supplanted first place Liverpool in week 12 by winning their game when Liverpool did not. However, that assumption detracts from the genius strategy that is knowing that Liverpool will become a clumsy child when given a lead to hold.
Speaking of Liverpool, just last week former vice captain Jamie Carragher wrote in his occasional column that he is “in no doubt that [Tottenham] can win the league this year” (forgive me for not wanting to link to the Daily Mail). Fellow legends-turned-pundits had their say as well. One month ago, Arsenal hero Charlie Nicholas said “I went with Manchester City at the start and I’m going to continue with them…I’m scared to put my neck on the line with Arsenal because they always let me down!” At around the same time, Manchester United and Valencia legend Gary Neville said, “You still have to have doubts over them through the fact, for instance, if you got an injury to Eden Hazard, an injury to Diego Costa.” Just like Leicester City, Chelsea have faced their fair share of cynical skepticism during their campaign.
In yet another similarity, both Leicester and Chelsea fired particularly petulant managers the season before their dominating campaigns. By the grace of a Thailand sex tape made by three reserve players including his son, manager Nigel Pearson was sacked by Leicester City. Chelsea parted company with Mourinho in the fall of last season after he failed to jumpstart his hungover champions and also forgot to remind Eden Hazard how to move his legs like a human being playing soccer.
Both teams also imported ebullient Italians as their managers. Though it may surprise one that unconventional bonding tactics like pizza parties, beers on the plane, supper clubs, and hand gestures are the keys to winning, in hindsight it is pretty obvious. Both managers are also known to employ uniquely optimal formations for their teams – Ranieri’s 4-4-2 and Conte’s 3-4-3. Conte’s current success already has Ranieri fondly rooting for his countryman. At his recent Hall of Fame induction in Italy, Ranieri said, “as former Chelsea coach and as an Italian supporter, I hope that Conte can achieve the goal [of winning the Premier League].”
“Impossible”; “Unbelievable”; “Inconteceivable”. Such are the headlines that might be used to describe Chelsea’s potential championship. After finishing last season all the way back in 10th place, Chelsea are on track to be the champions who came from the furthest back from the previous season since Leicester City came back from 14th place in their season prior.
So, one could look at the current Premier League table and draw some easy generalizations and see that, yes, Chelsea are winning. But no, they really aren’t just winning. Chelsea are doing a full on Leicester. Any fan of the underdog, heck, any lover of the beautiful game for that matter, has the fortune, nay, the duty, to root on Chelsea till the end of the season.