As they have done with each of their previous four top-flight title wins, Chelsea clinched their latest Premier League crown at the first time of asking with a vintage 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. Incredibly, it is Jose Mourinhoa s third league title in his first five full seasons as Chelsea manager, a record matched by just two other managers in English top-flight history. As has been the case for much of the second half of this season, it was a functional rather than aesthetically-pleasing Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, but most crucially, it was a Chelsea that yet again got the job done.
In stark contrast to last season, where the new league champions came up short in games such as the one against Crystal Palace on Sunday, Mourinhoa s side is one that now finds a way to win even when nowhere near its best. Even more than the silky, fluid football and the arrogance in Chelseaa s play at the beginning of the season when the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Oscar, Matic, Hazard and Diego Costa were in top form, it is this resilience and maturity that will please the Portuguese manager the most.
Here are three things we learned from the game that confirmed the Bluesa fifth top-flight title:
Willian can be a crucial player for Chelsea next season
Willian is arguably the unsung hero of Chelseaa s title-winning campaign. The tireless Brazilian, in contrast to the likes of Fabregas, Matic and Oscar, has improved in the second half of the season and despite the signing of Juan Cuadrado, has cemented his spot in Mourinhoa s starting XI. The term a Mourinho playera is often associated with the former Shakhtar attacker, and it is obvious why a Chelseaa s no.22 has an exceptional engine, with the Brazilian covering every blade of grass on the pitch on Sunday against Crystal Palace and making an absolute nuisance of himself with his relentless pressing and pressure on opposition defenders and midfielders.
Branislav Ivanovic has contributed significantly to Chelseaa s attack this season. Equally, Willian has contributed a lot to Chelseaa s defence. Playing almost as an auxiliary right-back at times, he has provided excellent cover for Ivanovic, whilst helping out defensively every time it is required of him. Whilst it is true that he can contribute more in terms of goals and assists, and that he needs to improve his end product, Williana s ability to fit into any system Mourinho plays, his selflessness and his willingness to make sacrifices for the team mean that he is a quite rightly a one of the managera s most valued players. Chelsea are likely to refresh their squad over the summer with attacking options such as Antoine Griezmann and Pedro being linked with the club. It will, however, take a special player to dislodge Willian from his position on Chelseaa s right wing.
John Terrya s quality and leadership has had a huge impact on this title race
Even as the greatest defender in Chelseaa s history prepares to lift his fourth Premier League title later this month as club captain a a record-equalling achievement a there is an ever-growing concern amongst the Stamford Bridge faithful that the club is still a ways away from finding a potential successor to fill the void that John Terry will leave when he eventually hangs up his boots. There was justified outrage about the Englishmana s exclusion from the nominees for the PFA Playera s Player of the Year award, although the Chelsea stalwart was included in the Team of the Year. Quite simply, he has been the best defender in the league this season by some distance.
One could be forgiven for thinking that this would be the season when John Terry would be gradually phased out, but the veteran defender has proved his doubters wrong, and in spectacular fashion. For the first time in his career, Terry, at the ripe old age of 34, is on course to play every single game in a Premier League season. Not only has he appeared in all 35 of Chelseaa s Premier league outings till date, he has also played in all of the cluba s important games in other competitions, including the Capital One Cup final at Wembley against Tottenham where he clinched the opening goal, setting his team on the path to victory. Chelsea fans will be left wondering how different their cluba s fortunes could have been in previous seasons had their captain been afforded more trust and minutes under the likes of Andres Villas-Boas and Rafa Benitez.
Nevertheless, Terrya s quality and leadership have had an immense impact on this title race. Unlike some of Chelseaa s other top players, the former England captain has been consistently brilliant throughout the season, with his performance against Arsenal at the Emirates in particular earning high praise from his manager. Mourinho said of his captaina s display, a It was the best JT has ever played. It was absolutely amazinga . Terry followed that up by scoring a crucial goal against Leicester City in midweek that gave Chelsea the lead late in the second half, leaving them a mere three points away from the title. That goal was his 38th for Chelsea, a record-equalling achievement in the league as a whole for a defender. Another rock solid display followed against Crystal Palace on Sunday as the league champions kept yet another home clean sheet and sealed the Premier League title.
With all said and done, John Terry remains the heartbeat of Chelsea Football Club. It is abundantly clear that he is indispensable to the side. Chelsea will never find a like-for-like replacement, but the club need to start looking a preferably from within their own ranks a for someone with the potential to lead the side like he does. With a year or two of football still left in Terry, now is as good a time as any for the club to identify and start nurturing a with the aid of Terry a their next captain, leader, legend.
Chelsea are the most efficient side in the league in more ways than one
In hindsight, it is now clear that Chelseaa s efficiency in the summer transfer window was a sign of things to come a a marker laid down before the season had even begun. Mourinho and the Chelsea board culled players they deemed excess to requirements ruthlessly, whilst adding world class quality to the side, with a net spend the likes of which the club has rarely seen in their time under Roman Abramovich. The championsa brilliant season then, started much before that awesome display of attacking, free-flowing football at Turf Moor against Burnley in their league opener.
The last time Chelsea lost a league game, Manchester City had caught up to the Blues a a remarkable situation where the nouveaux riches of the Premier League were level on points, goals scored, goals conceded and the Stamford Bridge outfit were top of the table only by alphabetical order. Thirteen points now separate the sides, and Chelsea have been crowned Premier League champions. There has been much debate lately about Chelseaa s safety-first approach to the top-of-the-table clashes against Manchester United and Arsenal, with critics scornful of the Bluesa lack of attacking intent. What Mourinho will point to, however, is their record since the defeat to Spurs all the way back on the first of January: 11 wins and 4 draws in 15 games. The Bluesa ability to adapt to their opposition and play different a stylesa of football has helped them throughout the season, and is arguably what has made the difference at the business end.
Chelsea played some of the most entertaining football in the league in the first half of the season. As was the case on Sunday against Crystal Palace, in the second half of the season, it has been about grinding out results. Yet another of Mourinhoa s second-season teams have shown the ability to do just that. The league champions have displayed ruthless efficiency, killing all talk of a potential title charge by Arsenal and Manchester United even as it began. Whilst the rest of the league debates whether or not Chelsea are entertaining, and rival managers take thinly-veiled digs at the Chelsea manager and the teama s style of play, Mourinhoa s Chelsea continue to do what they do best: winning. For Chelsea fans, ita s like the old times again.