Dark Horse Chelsea Primed to Defy Premier League Expectations

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(REUTERS)

Before the 2018/19 Premier League season began, people would talk about Manchester
City’s dominance, the uprising of Liverpool, if Manchester United could build on a strong
second-place finish, and if Tottenham Hotspur could finally mount a legitimate title challenge after Harry Kane’s strong World Cup showing. Chelsea and Arsenal were seldom discussed for a serious assault on the Premier League crown.

But, a little over a fifth of the way through the season, Manchester United is suffering the
consequences of a poor summer transfer window, Spurs don’t look like the threat that they
were expected to be, Arsenal has done surprisingly well under their new manager, and
Chelsea snuck into second with six wins and two draws – the same record as Liverpool and
Manchester City.

Through the opening eight games of the season, Chelsea – under new manager Maurizio Sarri – look to be a very strong team. Ross Barkley is breaking out into the top-talent that he was seen to be at Everton, while N’Golo Kante is proving to be as much of an influence higher up the pitch. Best of all, Sarri has reignited world-class winger Eden Hazard, who may even win the Golden Boot this season.

It looks as though Chelsea have a lot going for them early on in the season, and there’s plenty more backing them to be a serious contender to Manchester City and Liverpool.

A history of success with new managers

Since Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea, and prior to the appointment of Maurizio Sarri, the Russian billionaire has hired 12 managers. Of those 12, seven have come been at the helm before the first game of their debut season. Two of those managers – Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas – didn’t make it to the end of their first season at the club.

From the five managers who commenced their debut campaigns with the first game of a new season and survived to the end of their debut season, three won the Premier League title in the first time of asking. The other two were Claudio Ranieri in 2000/01, who was charged with building the club with the new finances, as well as Jose Mourinho in his second spell, who came third and then won the league in the second season of his second spell.

Sarri is enjoying a similar start to life as the Chelsea manager as Scolari, but there is a greater sense of assurance and sustainability about Sarri’s play. So, with the exception of an unexpected major collapse or tsunami of injuries, Sarri will likely be at the helm to the end. With a strong rate of new managers who start their debut season as the Chelsea boss going on to win the Premier League, it appears as though history is on Sarri’s side.

He’s also being helped by the Premier League fixtures list. While their participation in the
cups and Europa League could prove to hinder Chelsea’s title charge, league fixtures have fallen in their favour. Chelsea doesn’t face traditional top-six clubs back-to-back all season,
with the shortest league break between two of these big clashes coming in February against Manchester City and the Spurs – with only one league game in between – and Liverpool and Manchester United in April – also one game to split the two top meetings. One factor that could derail the Italian’s maiden season at Chelsea is the departure of his star player.

Chelsea’s hopes are in Hazard’s hands

With the defence looking very strong, Kepa Arrizabalaga proving to be a strong goalie
despite his age, and the midfield dominating every game, it’s down to the forward line to pull Chelsea over the line. Eden Hazard on the left and Willian on the right has proven to be a deadly combination that defences struggle to contain, while, Olivier Giroud’s movement,
aerial presence, and constant availability in the centre has been helped the wingers find open spaces.

The crown jewel of Chelsea’s blazing start to the season was Eden Hazard. Everyone knows that the Belgian is world-class, but few expected him to enjoy a start that featured seven goals and three assists through eight games following his lacklustre campaign in 2017/18. When Hazard is on fire, he remains a huge threat throughout the season, which is why so many fans are using the Oddschecker free bets to back Chelsea to win the league.

The only issue is if Eden Hazard transfers to Real Madrid in January, which has been heavily
rumoured all season. Luckily for those backing Chelsea and Chelsea fans, the tricky winger
has pledged his allegiance to the Blues at least for the remainder of 2018/19.

Hazard was reported as saying that a January transfer is not possible because he accepts Chelsea’s decision for him to stay and that wants to leave the club on good terms. Despite his persona, Hazard is a model professional who knows the influence of his performances when he’s at the peak of his powers.

If Eden Hazard remains at Stamford Bridge, Sarri continues to deploy his hard-to-beat style
of play, Chelsea has a great chance of upsetting the odds and making a run at the Premier
League title.

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