Halftime Sports

The EPL title race is already over

September 19, 2014

Every so often, we are blessed with a stretch of incredible matches. This weekend was one of said stretches. Arsenal and City played out an exciting 2-2 draw, Southampton ran riot at St. Mary’s, Liverpool couldn’t break down a feisty Aston Villa, and Manchester United actually won a game. But perhaps the least surprising result was the most telling of them all: Chelsea’s 4-2 victory over Swansea.

Look, Chelsea is good. Heck, Chelsea is really good. Chelsea is so good that I have no qualms declaring the hunt for first place over. Now, you may say it’s ridiculous to call the English Premier League, one of the most open, competitive leagues in Europe, over after just four match days. But, in my exceedingly humble opinion, Chelsea have, without a doubt, far and away the best team in the Premier League. Don’t get me wrong, this will still be yet another fantastic EPL season. But there won’t be much of a battle for first. Chelsea is simply too deep to not win this year.

To find out how they got their current level of dominance, look no further than this past summer’s transfer window.  It began with David Luiz’s £50,000,000 exit to PSG. Maybe you can blame PSG’s free-spending transfer policy, or maybe Chelsea’s back room staff has some brilliant negotiators who drove the price upwards. Regardless, I can tell you that David Luiz is not worth that much money. Not even close.  Along with selling Luiz, many of their best moves came in the form of departures. Chelsea let go of a few players to clean out some of the deadwood in their squad: Samuel Eto’o, Ashley Cole, Demba Ba and Frank Lampard (who looks so, so, so, so, so weird in a City jersey). They also sold Romelu Lukaku for £28,000,000, and finally got rid of Fernando Torres, for now, at least.

As for their transfers in, Chelsea could not have made better deals. They paid a mid-level sum for Filipe Luis and brought in the Didier Drogba for free and Loic Remy for a fairly negligible sum (considering his talent). They also did two of the best bits of business over the summer: £27,000,000 for Cesc Fabregas and £32,000,000 for Diego Costa. Chelsea somehow managed to negotiate very low sums for players of Fabregas’ and Costa’s caliber (Ed Woodward must’ve been scratching his head after those transfers went through). With these new players, Chelsea can put forth a terrifyingly talented lineup. Consider this: guys of the caliber of Petr Cech, Willian, Remy, and Drogba will have a hard time getting off the bench.

Chelsea has a stacked team with a brilliant manager. But I don’t see the same strength in any of the other would-be title contenders. Let’s start with last year’s winners, Manchester City. City didn’t do a whole lot to improve over the summer. They brought in Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero, Fernando, and Eliaquim Mangala. None of these transfers really blew anybody out of the water. Sagna is well past his prime. Hart was poor last season, but Caballero isn’t going to make waves at the Etihad. Fernando is a decent player, but while he will give some cover at their pivot in midfield, it is doubtful that he will be able to seriously challenge either Toure or Fernandinho for a starting spot. And then, of course, there’s Eliaquim Mangala. City paid a pretty big sum for Mangala. Mangala is an above-average defender, but is highly prone to mistakes at the back (like his countryman, Mahamadou Sakho, to whom we’ll get in a moment). I don’t think he’s worth the £32 million City paid, seeing as he was the fourth choice at center back for France this summer. Simply put, City have a good team, but Chelsea made significant improvements that have pushed them ahead.

But what about Liverpool? Last year’s runners-up return with several additions to the team. But they also lost one of the best strikers in the game, a certain biting individual by the name of Luis Suarez, who carried Liverpool through large portions of last season. He is elite, and cannot be replaced by the likes of Emre Can and Adam Lallana, however capable those players may be. With an injury-prone Daniel Sturridge and an unpredictable Mario Balotelli,  Liverpool lacks a consistent goal threat.  And despite signing Dejan Lovren, they still cannot field a dependable back four.  Having all of these issues, the Reds will fall far short of Chelsea by the year’s end.

Now for Arsenal.  Like Liverpool, the defensive problems from last season still remain. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are vulnerable to mistakes, and those mistakes so often seem to end in the worst way for Arsenal. What’s more, they still haven’t found the solution to their striker problem. Are Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck good? Yes. Are they prolific strikers who can perform in big games? Not really. As much as Arsenal fans love to pride themselves in their team’s beautiful passing, beautiful passing doesn’t win games. Goals win games. And the Gunners need to find more goals if they hope to win enough games to contend.

If you’re a fan of the Blues, be happy, this is your year. The big teams all contain flaws in their roster large enough to prevent them from challenging Chelsea for the top spot.  If you root for any of these doomed clubs, remember that some strange turn of luck could fall on Stamford Bridge and topple the Blues. Anything can happen in the Premier League, but barring disaster, this year’s winners have already declared themselves.

Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

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Hash-slinging slasher

lol no