Mar 6, 2017 23:10:06
Chelsea cemented their superiority at the top of the table with a 2-0 victory over West Ham and the relegation picture is also becoming clearer
Chelsea have taken another step towards reclaiming the Premier League title by maintaining their lead at the summit of the table with a 2-1 victory over West Ham.
Antonio Conte's side were in businesslike form once again at London Stadium, with Eden Hazard bolstering his case to be the PFA Player of the Year with the first goal before Diego Costa made the Blues' lead comfortable.
Manuel Lanzini pulled one back late on but did not threaten the result and Chelsea are once again 10 points clear of second-place Tottenham.
|8||West Bromwich Albion||27||11||7||9||36||34||2||40|
|11||West Ham United||27||9||6||12||36||46||-10||33|
But what has really changed in the standings as a result of this weekend's action?
CHELSEA MARCH ON
Whatever challenge is put in front of Chelsea, they seem to find a way to overcome it – the hallmark, so the cliche goes, of true champions. The Blues were not always spectacular against West Ham but did the job with few issues and now get a 12-day break from Premier League action.
They will face Manchester United in the FA Cup in the meantime but it is a game against their local rivals City that is gearing up to the most decisive of Chelsea's season so far.
If they can do the business between now and then against Stoke City and Crystal Palace, victory – or even a draw – against Pep Guardiola's team will surely wrap up the destination of the title.
There is a good chance, of course, that the result against City will not even be relevant, such has been Chelsea's superiority and their challengers' inconsistency. Tottenham might be a more credible threat to their championship bid but 10 points is a lot of ground to make up without an opportunity to beat the Blues and take points off them directly, which Spurs do not have.
ARSENAL IN TROUBLE
Arsenal will not be enjoying the unfamiliar feeling of being outside the top four following their defeat to Liverpool, and though they can return to the Champions League places by winning their game in hand they do not seem to be in the ascendancy going into the business end of the season.
Many will fancy the Gunners to churn out enough points against the weaker teams in the Premier League to seal qualification for Europe's top competition once again, but they will need to get back on track quickly.
After taking on Man City on April 2, it is vital they take near-maximum points from fixtures against West Ham, Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Sunderland before a tough finish against Tottenham, Manchester United, Stoke City and Everton.
That will mean getting the best out of Alexis Sanchez, who was dropped for the clash at Anfield before reports of a training-ground bust-up – later denied by Arsene Wenger – emerged. The Gunners may have little chance of progressing past Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but they desperately need to turn in at least a respectable performance to prevent morale from plummeting any further.
BOTTOM THREE DETACHED
Perhaps for the first time this season, we appear to have three clear favourites to suffer relegation from the top flight.
Sunderland, now six points adrift of safety following their defeat against Manchester City, look all but down having left it too late to make a managerial change and while Marco Silva enjoyed a great start at Hull City, their failure to beat Burnley at home last weekend is now looking costly. At Crystal Palace, meanwhile, Sam Allardyce finally seems to have struck upon a winning formula and it may see them pull clear of Middlesbrough.
There is still time for things to change; if Hull beat Swansea next weekend, Paul Clement's men will be dragged right back into the mess. But with the Swans looking rejuvenated under their new manager and Leicester City also back in form under Craig Shakespeare, the momentum is against the current bottom three.