Chelsea took another big step towards clinching the Premier League title as they ran out 3-1 winners at AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.

Chelsea remained well on course to life the Premier League trophy in just over a month’s time, as they won a hard-fought battle against AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday to maintain their seven-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea established a foothold in the match after Adam Smith turned Diego Costa’s badly scuffed shot into the back of his own net in the 17th minute. Eden Hazard quickly doubled the advantage, as only three minutes later he scored a fine goal to send Chelsea closer to a win.

However, Bournemouth pulled a goal back through the red-hot Joshua King just three minutes before half-time to set up an enticing last 45 minutes of the match. But Marcos Alonso put the match beyond doubt midway through the second half as he scored from a sublime free-kick.

As Chelsea got another significant step towards reclaiming the Premier League title that they lost meekly last season, The Hard Tackle attempts to take a closer look at some of the major talking points to have emerged out of Saturday’s match.

Another Day, Another Win – The Title Gets Within Grasp

This time last week, one of the shock results of the season took place as Crystal Palace battled hard to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. That seemed to have given the chasing pack, and in particular Tottenham Hotspur, a spring in the step to spark a late title tilt.

However, two games on and Chelsea have done enough to keep them at bay, for now. Spurs piled on the pressure on Wednesday to close the gap on the Blues to four points for 15 minutes on Wednesday, before a 2-1 win against Manchester City saw Antonio Conte’s side maintain their lead.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men were playing before Chelsea yet again on Saturday, and they did the needful by blowing Watford away. But, Chelsea stood tall to the Spurs test yet again, by seeing off a resolute Bournemouth side that made the three points hard to get.

Both Chelsea and Tottenham now have seven games to go till the end of the season, with the North London club having seven points to make on their capital rivals. Conte’s men face the fiercest test in their run-in when they visit Manchester United next week, while Spurs can close the gap by beating Bournemouth.

Diego Costa’s Drought – A Cause For Concern?

Chelsea’s near-imperious run towards reclaiming the Premier League title has undoubtedly been a real team effort, but there still have been some standout performers for the leaders at different stages of the season that have inspired the team in difficult situations.

N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard have been two such leaders on the pitch without the captain’s armband, with several match defining performances. Another such player, who carried Chelsea on several occasions during the early stages of the campaign was Diego Costa.

The Spain international had a rocking start to the season as he scored 14 goals in his first 18 matches to romp to the top of the goalscoring charts. But Costa has only found the back of the net 3 times in 11 subsequent games, and there are worrying signs about this downswing in his form.

And it was another frustrating evening for Costa, as he sent a few shots wide, one of which resulted in Chelsea’s first goal, thanks to Adam Smith. Granted, he has been involved in the buildup play in his side’s goals of late, but he has proven to be ineffective in his primary job – lacking the sharpness to score as frequently, and it is sure to be a cause for concern for Antonio Conte.

Joshua King Fails To Inspire Another Bournemouth Comeback

While one forward has been enduring a hard time in front of goal, another has enjoyed his time against opposition goalkeepers in recent weeks. Bournemouth have been resurgent since the start of March and Joshua King has been their driving force in that period.

The Norwegian is currently on a hot-streak, having scored 10 goals in his last 11 Premier League outings, and he was coming off another inspired performance in the midweek as he scored the leveller in the dying stages of Bournemouth’s 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

He was expected to do something of the same on Saturday if Bournemouth were to have any chance of taking points from Chelsea’s visit to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday. He did produce a similar performance but wasn’t well supported by his teammates who spurned various chances.

Ryan Fraser, Harry Arter and Benik Afobe, in particular, were guilty of not converting the opportunities that came their way, and if only Bournemouth managed to be more clinical in front of goal the result might have been a lot on Saturday.

Eden Hazard Will Run N’Golo Kante Close For POTY

As iterated earlier, Hazard has been one of the standout players for Chelsea this season, having stormed back to the form that saw him being adjudged as the Player of the Year in 2014/15. Fast forward to 2016/17 and he has become Chelsea’s talisman yet again, changing matches on his own.

Saturday’s match was another example when Hazard can set the tone for Chelsea’s wins, flowing through the length and breadth of the pitch effortlessly and scoring goals at will. Against Bournemouth, he combined with a player who is being touted by many to become the Player of the Year this season.

N’Golo Kante, the destroyer in Chelsea’s ranks turned into the provider as he sent Hazard clean through on goal with a sublime pass that few are able to see, and the Frenchman displayed just one of the few qualities that have made him one of the most influential players in the Premier League.

However Hazard, who has now equalled his best goalscoring tally in a Premier League season (14 in 2013/14 and 2014/15) could yet have something to say about that between now and the end of the season.

The Need To Improve Defensively

Chelsea have been one of the most entertaining sides, having been one of the most prolific sides in the Premier League this season. The likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Pedro have lighted up the English top flight with their electric style of play, but defence has been the foundation that their success has been built on.

N’Golo Kante has been a rock in the centre of the park, with the back-three of David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta keeping the opposition attacks quiet on several occasions. In fact, Chelsea had an enviable record of keeping clean sheets in 10 of the first 12 games since switching to a back-three.

However, that seems to have become a distant memory as they have failed to conceded at least one goal in nine of their last league games. Suffice to say, the Chelsea defence hasn’t been this vulnerable at any stage of the season, conceding several goalscoring chances to their opponents.

Bournemouth weren’t clinical enough to pounce on the chances, but a team like Tottenham – Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal opponents in two weeks’ time – will not be. So, Conte must find a solution to his porous defence when the two London rivals meet at Wembley, or the double dreams can be bid goodbye.

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