As unique as it is to the Premier League, the festive period also brings about a very important milestone for all clubs in the land. The halfway point of the season is reached during the New Yeara s Day fixtures and with it comes the inevitable a how far have we reached and how far do we have to goa questions. It is different for different clubs, of course. The clubs in the top half, especially the top four, have the relative luxury of knowing glory is achievable a either in the form of a domestic trophy or like qualifying for a European one. While clubs at the bottom traditionally dream of reaching the magical 40 point mark that will virtually guarantee another money-laden Premier League season.
Today, we focus on the top half of the table and more specifically at the very top. Not exactly sitting pretty at the moment, Chelsea FC and its supporters will have mixed reviews about where they are at the moment. Some unexpected dropped points, an odd loss at White Hart Lane and a draw here and there have meant that Manchester City are equal on points with the Blues at the top of the League.
Not all doom and gloom for Chelsea fans though, they had a fantastic start to the season winning away at Burnley courtesy of *that* assist by Cesc Fabregas, an expected home win against Leicester City and a fantastic 6-3 win at Everton followed. All of this, of course, was mainly orchestrated by the two freshly arrived Spaniards a namely Fabregas and Diego Costa. The seasona s first tough test away at City was also passed a albeit could have been much better had one Frank Lampard, now playing for the Sky Blues, not snuck in and scored an equalizing goal to snatch 2 points away from the visitors. Jose Mourinhoa s sensational record against Arsene Wenger continued with another fairly routine win at home against Arsenal on matchday seven. By this time, murmurs of the Premier League trophy coming back to London started gathering steam as Chelsea seemed to be getting not only the points but also wowing everyone with their performances.
The home form continued to remain spotless even after that win against Arsenal. QPR, West Bromwich Albion and Spurs were beaten with relative ease at Stamford Bridge in the following weeks. These matches were sandwiched between tough away ties at Old Trafford and Anfield. Given Mourinhoa s superlative record from last season against teams around them, Chelsea came through unscathed from the two trips with a 1-1 draw at United and a 2-1 win at Liverpool.
In the meanwhile, Costa continued to score goals for fun and Fabregas was, more often than not, the provider of those goals. A certain Eden Hazard also began to blossom as the halfway point was nearing. Nemanja Matic a who has been the unsung hero for Chelsea a also started making people notice his talent and his potential to be one the best defensive midfielders in Europe.
Also the small matter of the UEFA Champions League was done and dusted fairly early on, with Chelsea qualifying top of the group and ultimately finding out that they will undertake a trip to Paris to take on Zlatan Ibrahimovica s Paris St-Germain. Their league form also carried into the League Cup with wins over Bolton at home, Shrewsbury and Derby County away ensuring a semi-final against Liverpool later on in the year.
Most people say they saw the sign of the a weaknessesa of Chelseaa s game away at Newcastle a which was also their first loss of the season in all competitions. But the real turning point, so to speak, must have been at the Stadium of Light. The might of Chelseaa s attack could not penetrate a solid, well-organised defence, backed by no less than twenty five thousand Black Cat supporters. It could turn out to be a blueprint for most teams to follow during the course of this season, which has already been implemented by Southampton and the aforementioned Newcastle.
Not to say that two away draws is a bad result, but for Chelsea constantly in competition with Manchester City, these dropped points could prove costly if City manage to take all three points from these very places. What must also be noted, however, is that during this a blipa , the Blues managed to take 10 out of possible 12 points.
The kicker, however, came during gameweek 20. Of all the things Chelsea fans hate in this world including Arsenal, Liverpool and Rafa Benitez, the most hatred is usually reserved for Tottenham Hotspurs. It is well documented that the Spurs have a poor record against their cross-town rivals, so much so that the Blues fans call their away trips to this North London stadium as a Three Point Lanea . It must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the travelling fans as they were blown away by hurricane Harry Kane. A demoralizing 5-3 loss at a Three Point Lanea left Chelsea fans devastated and demoralized. In what could yet be their lowest point of the season, this loss to Spurs would have given their rivals much needed hope and impetus.
Where are they headed?
A look at the fixtures past and present will tell one all they need to know about where both Chelsea and Manchester City are headed in the second half of the season. The latter still have to go to Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and most importantly at Chelsea where there could be some problems for the reigning champions. On the other hand, Chelsea have fewer tricky fixtures like when they travel across town to QPR or to Arsenal. Apart from that, if their home form continues, the Blues a on paper a have the easier run-in.
However, as we have come to know of the Premier League, even a home fixture against Leicester City, with all due respect, is not a guaranteed win. In fact, towards the end of the season, the bottom clubs become even more desperate for points, which only means more attacking play from them. A small slip-up could mean your rivals taking over the lead.
One thing we havena t even considered is the possibility that Manchester United may yet claim a stake to the title. We all know they are strong finishers of a season and unlike the other two clubs at the top, they do not have any European distractions. As always, one will have to look at United for a chance at winning the title.
All said and done, on the balance of things, Chelsea fans will be happy with the current state of affairs. They love their manager, they finally have a striker who can score goals on a regular basis and most importantly, they seem to have done away with their tougher fixtures coming out unscathed. If only, however, that Tottenham game could be erased from memory altogether, the Blues faithful will consider this to be a successful first half of the season.