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Chelsea Show Champion's Mettle At Stoke

Tuesday 21st March 2017
Antonio Conte's blue machine rolled on at the weekend. A win away at Stoke courtesy of a late Gary Cahill goal saw Chelsea claim another 3 points. However, the Stamford Bridgers showed something very different to what we've typically seen this season. The Blues revealed they have a champion's mettle.

Chelsea have topped the table now since 20 November. It seems all but confirmed they will be champions after a strong season. They've been well organised, clinical in attack, having really found their feet under their Italian boss after a questionable start. Still, this weekend's win against the Potters wasn't the routine Chelsea to which we've become accustomed. This time, they had to grind out a result and find a late goal when the chips were down, something so typical in previous years' champions. It's all well and good having your fancy football or your defence of steel, but when it just hasn't been your day something else has to show. That quality has eluded many teams over the years, most notable, of course, being Arsenal. Arsène Wenger's side, so often being short a tough fought win when needed, tend to succumb every time their performance drops.

It's an old cliché. A top team doesn't perform to standard then finds a goal late to salvage a draw or even snatch a win. Pundits say you can't win the title without such a result. It's the old chestnut “winning even when you don't play well.” Champion's mettle certainly separates title winners from pretenders. At the Bet365 stadium on Saturday, Chelsea had come unstuck. A less resilient side would settle for a point, citing a difficult away ground, naturally. Nonetheless, the result would be seen as two points dropped. Instead, with just minutes remaining Gary Cahill scored his fourth this season. Players and manager alike didn't hold back in their celebration, revealing just how big a win it was.
The win followed in previous champions' footsteps, ones who had it in their make up to dig deep, to snatch victory from defeat's jaws. After all, a true winner doesn't know when to lie down. They never say die. Memories of Steve Bruce's late goal against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford back in 1993 and the ever famous Sergio Aguero strike for City against QPR in 2012 come to mind. These goals quite literally win titles. They are priceless, their value shown by reactions from teammates, coaches, supporters, opponents, and the media. Cahill's winning goal, not as visible coming this early, could still prove worth its weight in gold, especially as Chelsea will resume their league campaign in April with a mammoth 13 point lead. Despite London rival Tottenham's brilliant form, it's difficult to see the Blues capitulating.

Chelsea have answered most questions and tests put toward them this season. The weekend was another barricade smashed down, the Blues coming away heads held high. Moments of that ilk give teams belief they can emerge from every game with a win. It wouldn't be very shocking should Chelsea do precisely that from now to their inevitable coronation in May.
Ryan Stewart

23 years old, Sport Journalism graduate living in Salford. Work in web content in Media city and always looking to break in to sports writing. Manchester United season ticket holder.

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