Chelsea KO West Ham on Boxing Day; Still Clear League Favorites


Photo Courtesy of Twitter @chelseafc

As if coming down and opening gifts on Christmas morning wasn’t fun enough, we’ve all been spoiled with a gift on our television sets the morning after. The Premier League has traditionally rolled out a full slate of fixtures on Boxing Day, one originally celebrated as a day that employees or servants received gifts from their bosses. Now we’re receiving a wonderful gift of scintillating football as a means of recovery from our Christmas hangovers.

Traditionally, local rivals take each other on in such matches to lessen travel during Christmas. Lucky for us, this opened the door to a London Derby between Chelsea and West Ham. The most competitive London Derbies generally include Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham, but West Ham United’s ascent into the Top 4 this season made for a cracker of an opening match up to the day.

Stamford Bridge was the stage for this battle of two top 4 clubs. Unfortunately for the Irons, Chelsea were on top of their game bossing the midfield and creating chance after chance. John Terry opened the scoring in the 31st minute and Diego Costa closed the book on West Ham in the 62nd minute. The result of this match leaves Chelsea in first and dropped the Hammers out of the top 4 after Southampton’s positive result. While these are the obvious tangible results from the fixture, what can we really take out of a match completely dominated by the side from West London?

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It’s fairly evident that Chelsea are still the league favorites. On their day, they can’t be stopped; injury may be the only cause to worry about as a Blues fan as no other team seems to be threatening, despite City’s rise in the table. Not only are they solid at each position, but Chelsea possess arguably the best players in the league at each position.

Thibault Courtois is lengthy and extremely tough to beat. His size and decision-making leave very little openings in the Chelsea net. While he could have taken a nap on the goal line and still not conceded (since West Ham did not register a shot on goal) in today’s match, his play this season has been exceptional. If it weren’t for the out-of-this-world performances from David DeGea, Courtois would be getting much more praise for his play at keeper. The stalwart back line of Azpilicueta-Cahill-Terry-Ivanovic not only make it close to impossible to score on Chelsea, but they also pick out great times to make a foray up to cause trouble on opposing defenses. Terry has shown this knack by getting his head on a couple goals in the past two games, including today’s match against West Ham. It also helps to have someone like Felipe Luis to bring off the bench as cover.

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  • Chelsea’s midfield is second to none. Matic further proved his worth as the top defensive midfielder in the Premier League per our rankings released recently. He put a stop to any ideas West Ham had of marching their way to the Chelsea goal. Cesc Fabregas leads the league in assists and the speed at which the Chelsea midfield pass the ball is tantalizing as shown in the interplay between Hazard, Willian, Fabregas and Costa leading up to John Terry’s goal. This brings us to Diego Costa, who is second in EPL goals scored this season and has acclimated himself real well to the English game. He chipped in with a goal and assist, but a cover of club legend Didier Drogba and well-rested Loic Remy is exactly the type of insurance needed for champions.

    On the other side of the coin, what is to make of West Ham from the match? The stunning fact that Manager Sam Allardyce left midfield enforcer Alex Song and lead scorer Diafra Sakho on the bench to start the match leads to the belief that West Ham may have conceded this match before it started. Potentially looking ahead to a massive match against Arsenal on Sunday, Big Sam rotated his squad to keep his big name players fresh against a team they see themselves competing with for a top 4 spot.

    Aug 10, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Chelsea head coach Jose Mourinho before the game against AS Roma at RFK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

    While it’s no easy task to go into Stamford Bridge, this game showed that West Ham is not quite there. Their improvement from last season to this should not be downplayed, but they simply do not have enough quality to finish in the top 4. Zero shots on target is no way to convince the EPL fans of your top 4 ambitions. Their match against Arsenal will be very telling as will be the stretch run coming up, but I can’t see the club finishing in a Champions League spot; the depth isn’t there.

    This London Derby further solidified my opinion on crowning Chelsea already. City’s injury to Sergio Aguero will catch up to them when they take on some more quality sides without their star. Meanwhile, the well-oiled Chelsea machine keep grinding out results with beautiful football. They also have the brilliant mind of Jose Mourinho to guide them, as he’s no stranger to success. West Ham United, while exciting, may not be quite ready yet for the big stage.

    What are your thoughts on Chelsea’s chances at the Premier League title? Am I dismissing West Ham too early? Let us know in the comments below!