Chelsea F.C. hit the ground running with four consecutive Premier League wins, 15 goals and a swagger that was often missing during Jose Mourinho’s first season back at Stamford Bridge.
New signing Diego Costa struck seven goals in those first four matches, including a hat-trick in a 4-2 home win against Swansea City and two in a 6-3 win at Everton.
They would have made it five consecutive victories when they led 1-0 at champions Manchester City on Sept. 21 but in one of the most extraordinary cameos of the season Frank Lampard, on loan at City after leaving Chelsea to join New York after 13 years at the Bridge, levelled in the 85th minute.
“I knew it,” Chelsea captain John Terry told Lampard ruefully as the pair shook hands after the game.
It proved a minor setback though as Chelsea had already established a three-point lead at the top of the table.
Chelsea’s 2-0 home victory against Arsenal in October was routine, although Mourinho’s ability to get under Gunners boss Arsene Wenger’s skin re-surfaced as the two went eyeball-to-eyeball on the touchline in the first half.
Costa was again on target, latching on to a superb pass by Arsenal old boy and fellow new signing Cesc Fabregas.
With Costa unavailable, veteran Didier Drogba reminded Chelsea fans of his worth when he scored at Manchester United, but as against City a late equaliser denied Chelsea the win.
Three consecutive wins in November, against Queens Park Rangers, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion, stretched Chelsea’s advantage to seven points over surprise package Southampton.
Talk of Chelsea emulating Arsenal’s 2004 Invincibles abruptly ended when they went down 2-1 at Newcastle United — prompting a bizarre complaint about Newcastle’s ballboys.
“The ball disappeared, they keep the ball, they hide the ball,” Mourinho said of the culprits, although his own side’s display probably annoyed him far more.
Chelsea’s season has been free of the poor runs that afflicted Arsenal and Manchester United early on and Manchester City in the Spring and the only time they looked remotely vulnerable was at the turn of the year.
An astonishing 5-3 loss at Tottenham Hotspur allowed Manchester City move level on points but that was the last league loss suffered by Chelsea.
With Man City fading fast and a first title since 2010 beckoning, Chelsea have been ruthlessly efficient, even when deprived of strikers Costa and Loic Remy because of injury.
The majestic Eden Hazard came increasingly to the fore, scoring the winner at West Ham and also in single-goal victories over Hull City, Stoke City and Manchester United.
Arsenal’s slender hopes of catching Chelsea ended when Mourinho’s side played out a masterful 0-0 draw at The Emirates to all but secure a first title since 2010.
“April was the month people were waiting for Chelsea to sleep, to lose a game,” Mourinho said of his side’s ability to grind out points.
“And it was exactly the month where we were phenomenal.”
They came from behind to beat Leicester City 3-1 leaving the stage set for Sunday’s home derby with Crystal Palace to be crowned champions. Eden Hazard’s penalty, his 14th league goal of the season, was enough to get the party started.