Chelsea came into today’s huge match against Liverpool atop the Premier League with an eight-point lead in the table that seemed right on the cusp of insurmountability. A loss away at Liverpool, once perceived to be Chelsea’s strongest rivals for the title, was probably the only thing that could truly make the chase for the EPL crown at least interesting down the stretch. Instead, despite only coming away from Anfield with a single point, the presumptive champions somehow extended their lead after each of the other title hopefuls all conspired to spit up all over themselves.
Liverpool were the first to acquiesce to Chelsea’s will, though that’s maybe putting it a little too harshly. The Reds started the game brightly, challenging Chelsea to deal with the intricate movement and interchanging of positions and quick passing of their extremely fluid attackers and midfielders, while also hunting down any lost ball with the coordinated ferocity common to Jürgen Klopp teams. Then David Luiz did this and Liverpool spent the rest of the first half in the same confused daze as the rest of us who witnessed Luiz’s moment of brilliant inspiration.
Liverpool did come back out in the second half with renewed focus and leveled the score with a Georginio Wijnaldum header. Still, they could not break the deadlock. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made up for his braindead error on the Luiz goal by saving a penalty, so in the end the draw was pretty fair, even though Liverpool arguably played better for most of the game.
So, Chelsea hadn’t lost but they hadn’t won, either. Prime opportunity for the other teams in the tight pack right behind the leaders to make up some ground. Arsenal and Tottenham, who before today trailed Chelsea by eight and nine points, respectively, had some pretty easy matchups, too. Arsenal hosted Watford while Spurs traveled to cellar-dwellers Sunderland. Befitting both clubs’ bungling natures, the Gunners lost and Spurs drew.
And so on this, a day that may as well have been set up to trip them along their way, Chelsea’s path to the title actually got a little clearer. Chelsea now lead both Tottenham and Arsenal by nine points and, after welcoming the Gunners home for a match this weekend, they have a very favorable schedule ahead of them in the next few weeks. The title really is Chelsea’s to lose now, and it doesn’t seem like any of their potential rivals have either the interest or ability to impede the Blues on their jaunt to the trophy.