Chelsea’s marquee signings this summer have made diddly squat difference. They are basically an irrelevance in the EPL (cups are another matter, but they are still not really any better than they were... they have basically moved into overkill now). We can easily match Chelsea - well we could if we didn’t insist on handicapping ourselves with daft systems of play at least. The six points head to head might be hard to get, but at the end of the day that is all we can take from each other. The league is won - or more precisely lost - in the games against the dross.
Lets ignore last season and instead turn the clock back to Chelsea’s record mark in 05. That was basically a perfect season for Chelsea, with no realistic room for improvement given the vagaries of fortune that dictate an awful lot of football results. They dropped a mere ten points at home, and just nine on the road. They finished ahead of us by a huge margin of eighteen points... They were miles better than us then, just as they are now even if they have lost a bit of the hunger and will probably be getting increasingly distracted by the ECL. And yet...
Go back and look at that season once more. Where did the eighteen points come from? In the big matches, the matches where quality really counts, we basically matched them. Reduce the table to just the games amongst the big four and we were just two points off Chelsea, taking twelve to their fourteen. Last season was virtually an identical story with our taking eleven to their fifteen, actually an enlarged gap for Chelsea despite our slashing their lead in the full table. Point is the difference has been against the dross, against the sixteen teams we are definitely significantly superior to. That is what we are really competing against, and Chelsea’s signings have no relevance in that arena.
We shouldn’t worry about the six hard points we could lose against Chelsea, rather we should be focused on the 96 extremely attainable points against Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Charlton, Everton, Fulham, City, Middlebrough, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Reading, Sheffield United, Spurs, Watford, West Ham and Wigan. There is a record points total available just by beating that lot, so anything you get from Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool is a bonus. Make that shift in mentality as a club and we can easily be competitive with Chelsea, despite not being on a par against them.
The point is against the big guns we can play well with a full strength side, have no bad luck or bad decisions go against us, and yet still drop points. With the talent available to the big four no matter how well one might play on a particular day any of the others can potentially raise the bar higher. You can do no wrong yet easily fail to get the three points. The same just doesn’t hold true against the other sixteen clubs. If our best team plays well against them then it is only the vagaries of chance that puts the result in doubt.
You tell me where we should be focussing our resources, the games in the ECL and against the EPL big guns where we can actually get outplayed in any game and luck - good or bad - is oft decisive, or on the 32 games that can secure us the EPL where we can only be thwarted by ourselves or The Lady.