Amid rumors of being punished by manager Antonio Conte due to the distraction of a massive bid from China, Costa scored his 15th league goal this season on Sunday to help his side beat Hull City 2-0. Three points, a clean sheet and now an eight-point gap at the top of the table.
It is one of the most lop-sided league seasons in a decade. After 22 games, Chelsea is now well clear of second-placed Arsenal while Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are separated by just six points and in a fight amongst themselves for the remaining Champions League spots.
Statistics show the same story. Since 2007/08, no team has ever led the league by more than a seven-point margin and failed to win the title. Chelsea has already eclipsed that. Chelsea’s success is largely based on Antonio Conte’s appointment. The shift of formation from 4-2-3-1 under Josè Mourinho to 3-4-3 this season re-ignited the potential of Chelsea’s super footballing stars.
While Chelsea is on the up, their competitors are facing all sorts of internal problems. Manchester City, the team considered by most to be the top title contender at the beginning of the season, has fallen apart and is now desperately in search of a reliable goalkeeper. The fact that City is struggling with its own unfamiliar football philosophy of playing the ball out from the goalkeeper to the front has resulted in manager Pep Guardiola’s first attempt to establish a new empire in England failing.
Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham have suffered from a lack of bench depth and the resilience to compete to the end. Liverpool’s recent slump clearly indicates that they must invest before they can truly be considered a serious title contender, despite being the form team in the months leading into the New Year. Manchester United is now catching up after a slow start, but until they find the way to unleash the power of their world-class youngster they will remain out of the title challenge.