By: Alex Greenberg
The footballing world is collectively intrigued by what is going on at Chelsea this season. If the season ended today the Blues would take 15th place, which would be their worst finish in the league since 1988. Chelsea haven’t missed out on the Champions League since 2002, when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was their leading scorer.
Chelsea are already 10 points out of the Champions League spots, and 14 points behind league leaders Manchester City. No one would’ve predicted it before the season, but the defending champions chances at defending their title seem to have already been extinguished only 11 games into the new season.
This will all certainly concern Jose Mourinho, but he refuses to admit it. It was a rough week for Chelsea’s manager. Mourinho was given a one game stadium ban for his attempts to enter the referees locker room during halftime against West Ham on October 24th. “The Special One” is also having legal action brought against him by Chelsea’s ex-physio Eva Carnero, who Mourinho essentially dismissed for doing her job. Chelsea’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool further exasperated Mourinho’s situation at the club.
Chelsea jumped into in an early lead through a goal by Brazilian midfielder Ramires, but would ultimately concede three straight in what was another poor defensive showing. Coutinho and Christian Benteke were each allowed far too much space during their goals. John Terry and Gary Cahill flopping about on Benteke’s 83rd minute goal is a far cry from the level the two played at during Chelsea’s championship season last year.
Mourinho’s men have two winnable games against Stoke and Norwich coming up on the schedule. If Chelsea were to somehow lose both of those matches, I don’t think Mourinho would survive.
Chelsea out of the Champions League is good news for somebody, and Tottenham could very much be that somebody. Spurs, unbeaten since the opening day of the season, beat table bottom-dwellers Aston Villa 3-1. Villa were managed by temporary caretaker Kevin Macdonald, with newly appointed Remi Garde watching in the stands at White Hart Lane. For the most part, he’ll not have liked what he saw.
Villa went down almost immediately when Moussa Dembele powered his way for his second goal in as many games. Spurs young talent continued to shine as 19-year-old Dele Alli scored his second goal of the season and put forth one of the matches best performances. Alli was playing in League 1, the third division of English football, with MK Dons last season and has acclimated himself to Premier League with remarkable quickness and confidence.
Aston Villa may soon find themselves playing MK Dons in the lower leagues if they don’t start improving. Villa pressured for a bit after they made the game 2-1 via a deflection, but their coffin was nailed when Harry Kane scored his fifth goal of the season in stoppage time.
Kane and his Spurs teammates will be rearing to go next week against the other most in-form team in the Premier League, Arsenal. The Gunners scored three goals in the second half in Wales to beat a struggling Swansea City side. Swansea were the better team in the first half, but their striker, Bafetimbi Gomis, was unable to convert a few very good chances.
Arsenal’s second half performance will give Arsene Wenger confidence going into the North London Derby on Sunday. Olivier Giroud scored again and even Joel Campbell got on the score-sheet. Campbell, who was making his first Premier League start for Arsenal, may be called into action again due to Arsenal’s injury issues.
It’s become a law of the land that Arsenal must always be dealing with, at least, a half dozen injuries at a time. If I listed every player on their injury list, I’d run out of room in this column. But some of the more important players who will miss the North London Derby are Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, and Hector Belerin.
With both teams flying high in the league right now, something has to give. Perhaps the difference will be Arsenal’s injuries, while Spurs will receive a boost now that Son Heung-Min has begun training and is available for the big match. This incredibly biased writer thinks the injury absences will make the difference. Spurs to win 10-0.
Elsewhere in the Premier League there was a coming-back-to-earth for West Ham as they lost to Watford at Vicarage Road. Watford, who’ve easily been the best of the newly promoted teams, thoroughly handled the Hammers with a complete team performance. Odion Ighalo scored two more goals for the Hornets, bringing his tally for the season to seven goals, the second best total in the league.
West Ham, who’ve got aspirations of qualifying for European football, will need to take a step back and ensure they walk before they run. It was very unlike Slaven Bilic’s Hammers side, but they just weren’t up to snuff defensively in this one. Watford have dangerous players, but West Ham were simply too open in the center of midfield and center of defense.
In next weekend’s Premier League action, the North London Derby is the best offering, but there are some other interesting tilts. Liverpool are coming off their first Premier League win under Jurgen Klopp, and they’ll be facing a Crystal Palace side who have talent but are now winless in their last three league matches.
Will Chelsea’s struggles continue as they travel to Stoke City? This is the question on so many minds as the Blues struggles and Jose Mourinho’s antics continue to dominate the headlines in England. Stoke sit in 14th place at the moment, just 2 points ahead of Chelsea in 15th.
Another loss for Chelsea would only further dent their chances at the Champions League. Stoke are known for playing hard, especially at home, but I think Chelsea will prevail. They still have much to address as to whether they can qualify for the Champions League, and their title chances have long gone, but they should beat an average Stoke side at the Britannia.