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Chelsea stumbled to sixth place in the Premier League a season ago. Six matches into the latest edition, the Blues are sitting pretty at the top of the table. Are they really back?
As you may or may not have noticed, Chelsea are sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League. They have more wins than anyone else and are undefeated, which is usually a pretty good sign, and now that we've gone and beaten Arsenal at the Emirates we can step back and take our place at the summit a bit more seriously.
It will not have come as a shock to anyone that the Blues, despite being European champions and reinforcing heavily over the summer, weren't seen as title favourites this year. They finished twenty points behind the Manchester duo and decided to take the scenic route to Champions League qualification. They just weren't good enough to be trusted at the top, although the consensus was that they were a pretty safe bet to wrap up third place.
But in the eight games that constitute the 2012/13 season, Chelsea's record is six wins and two draws, with 21 goals scored and five conceded. In their first real test last year, against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Andre Villas-Boas' Chelsea flopped. This time, they outplayed an in-form Arsenal and emerged with a 2-1 victory.
The club's performances so far this year raise an interesting question. Are Chelsea back? Looking at the schedule to date, it's difficult to say so -- they blew a 2-0 home lead against Juventus and have only played two sides in the top ten, but I was curious to see how their opponents (Wigan Athletic, Reading, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers, Stoke City and Arsenal) have done outside of Chelsea matches. Here's their overall record:
Six wins, 15 draws, 13 losses. 0.97 points per match.
And outside of Chelsea matches?
Six wins, 14 draws, eight losses. 1.14 points per match. Over a full season, that's worth 43 points, a tally that would have finished in 15th place last season. Not exactly outstanding opposition there. How does that stack up to the opponents of the two Manchester teams?
Manchester City's opponents: Eight wins, eight draws, 13 losses. 1.10 points per match. 42 points over full season.
Manchester United's opponents: Ten wins, seven draws, 13 losses. 1.23 points per match. 47 points over full season.
Both City and United, of course, have dropped six points compared to Chelsea's two. Compared to that -- and I realise that this is a fairly back-of-the-envelope style check that doesn't take into account home vs. away games -- the Blues' strong start to the season looks reasonably legitimate. Long may it continue.