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Darren Lewis: Chelsea still have much to prove despite top-four position

27 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Darren Lewis: Chelsea still have much to prove despite top-four position

A decent October, yes, but the Mirror sports writer is still not convinced by Antonio Conte's side...

After all of their problems this season, they probably can’t believe it themselves.

Chelsea go into this weekend nestled in the top four, just a point behind a Manchester City side that reeled off six wins on the bounce to go top at the start of the season.

They are, too, just a single point behind an Arsenal side undefeated since the opening weekend – winning six – and the Liverpool team that inflicted that defeat.

To be fair, the Blues were themselves impressive in seeing off Manchester United 4-0 last Sunday.

Yet there was one statistic that summed up the extent to which the victory papered over the cracks for Antonio Conte’s men.

That the opening scored by Pedro was the Spaniard’s first shot on target all season, in his tenth appearance of the campaign.

United were awful. Undone by a combination of their own defensive shortcomings and the enhanced desire of certain Chelsea players to embarrass Jose Mourinho, the manager they forced out last season.

United themselves are still coughing and spluttering their way into the campaign. They have yet to click under Mourinho, though they surely will eventually.

So far they’ve been beaten at home in the league by rivals City and squeaked past Pep Guardiola’s reserves in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night.

United have also been beaten at Watford, held at home by Stoke and embarrassed in the Europa League by Feyenoord. 

The Chelsea win looked good for the Londoners, but they have work to do to prove that their position in the League doesn’t flatter them. Hugely.

Preceding the comprehensive United win for Chelsea were victories over Leicester and Hull.

Leicester, so brilliant last season, have so far not turned up for their away games in the Premier League, losing at Hull, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Yes, the latter trio all strengthened during the summer, but so too did the Foxes. Substantially. 

It is patronising to suggest that last season’s Champions should have expected not to take anything from those three matches.

But back to Chelsea.

Even their 0-2 win at Hull is put firmly into perspective when you consider that Mike Phelan’s men have conceded a total of 20 goals in losing to United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Bournemouth and Stoke.

Chelsea’s other Premier League wins have been their routine victory at home to Burnley, preceded by their fortuitous successes at home to West Ham and away to Watford.

Diego Costa should have been sent off against the Hammers for his foul on keeper Adrian, while Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes pretty much gifted Chelsea victory with an awful goalkeeping display.

In the games where they have been seriously tested – Liverpool and Arsenal – they have fallen short. Liverpool were 2-0 up at half time, Arsenal three.

Chelsea also blew a two-goal lead at Swansea to escape with a point, while they were 2-0 down by half-time at Leicester in the EFL Cup, before eventually making it through in extra time.

Even allowing for the switch to three at the back, there is such concern behind the scenes that Conte is desperately hoping for reinforcements in January.

Southampton will prove Chelsea with another tough test on Sunday. Claude Puel may not have the profile of the celebrated Ronald Koeman, but he has made the Saints just as tough to beat.

So much so that they have conceded just twice in their last ten games, losing only once in that time.

Theirs is the joint-second best defensive record in the Premier League with Koeman’s Everton. Both teams are behind Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.

Southampton extended City’s winless run last Sunday and, in front of their own fans at St Mary’s, will be full of confidence.

An experienced Chelsea side – save for Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah – had their defensive shortcomings once again exposed at West Ham on Wednesday night as they crashed out of the EFL Cup.

The trip to Southampton on Sunday may yet show just why nobody at Stamford Bridge is getting carried away – despite their fine recent run.