It wasn’t supposed to take this long, but it’s finally happened: Chelsea are Premier League champions.
Jose Mourinho’s three-year quest for a meaningful title ended this week with Chelsea crowned after their 1-0 defeat of Pardiola’s Crystal Palace, and while I think it took longer than expected (or needed to), the inevitable is finally upon us.
Sure, Mourinho might feel that his team underachieved in Europe – bowing out to a PSG team that spent the majority of the second leg down a man – but locally, this was always Chelsea’s league to lose. It wasn’t always pretty, but it sure was efficient.
Chelsea started out this year displaying an attacking fluency that was absent from last year, and led by Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, the West London club played some pretty football.
Maybe too pretty for their manager’s liking.
Since the New Year, this team has displayed both the qualities and faults of its manager. Chelsea transformed from a free-wheeling offensive juggernaut to a defensively sound outfit that suffocated opponents. Perhaps it was because of fatigue and suspensions, or maybe because Mourinho thought his team was too loose, but whatever the case, this team transformed at around the time of the 5-3 defeat to Tottenham, when the Spurs midfield (!!!!!!) pressed the double pivot of Nemanja Matic and Fabregas, exposing the lack of pace in Chelsea’s centre backs.
From then on, Mourinho tightened the defense and conservatively coasted to the title, helped by the relatively tame challenges from the rest of the league. Arsenal put up a valiant effort in 2015, but while Arsene Wenger’s team may be the kings of North London, they didn’t have enough to withstand their western opponents, with Wenger playing the role of Stannis Bartheon to Mourinho’s Tywin Lannister (I don’t know if Mourinho enjoys his wine to the extent that Cersei does, but then again, no one probably does).
Meanwhile, City faded down the stretch despite the best efforts of Sergio “Brienne of Tarth” Aguero. On New Year’s Day, they were joint top. As of May 5, they are second and fading fast, with Manuel “Renly” Pellegrini looking like a dead man walking.
Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United are probably a year away, and next season will probably mount more of a challenge to the West Londoners, but they did play a part in the vanquishing of a pretender to the throne.
Yes, THAT pretender.
Fresh off a second place finish last year, Liverpool and their Robb Stark of a manager, Brendan Rodgers, talked a big game and even warned van Gaal of the challenges of the BPL. Perhaps he should have taken his own advice, especially against the Dutchman, who flayed his formation twice and is set to finish above Rodgers for a spot in the Champions League. (In this analogy, Wayne Rooney is Theon Greyjoy.)
These were all subplots in the main story of Chelsea’s ascent to the Premier League throne. The next chapter for Chelsea is to capitalize on the local successes and try to conquer Europe.
Then, and only then, will Mourinho have paid his debt.