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Can Chelsea defend their title ahead of Manchester teams and Arsenal / Liverpool?

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Chelsea 2016-17 Premier League champions

Chelsea won the Premiership at a canter last season but they are not being given much of a chance of retaining their title. Man City have been installed as favourites to win the league after an extravagant spending spree, while Chelsea are joint second favourites along with Man Utd. But nobody is backing them. Most of the action is going on City at 15/8, followed by Man Utd at 7/2, Arsenal at 12/1, Liverpool at 12/1 and Everton at 90/1. Why is nobody tempted by strong odds of 7/2 on the Premiership champions, who have been pretty ambitious in the transfer market as they set about bolstering the best side of the last campaign?

Well, for starters the last time they tried to defend the title was an absolute disaster. They won it under Jose Mourinho in 2014-15 but the next season they flirted with relegation and eventually finished 10th. It was the worst defence of a Premiership title in history, as Leicester romped to an unlikely victory and Chelsea finished below teams like West Ham, Southampton and Stoke. Leicester have since taken the unwanted accolade of the worst ever defence of a Premiership title from Chelsea as they finished 12th last season. The holders have not had a good time of it of late in the top flight.

Can Antonio Conte be the man to break that hoodoo? He instantly transformed a team that finished mid-table into champions, pioneering a three at the back system that rivals are now racing to ape. Chelsea were a terrifying blend of pace, power, dynamism and incision last season and new signing N’Golo Kante won all three Player of the Year awards after typifying their all action style. In Kante that have the league’s best midfielder and in Eden Hazard they have its most devastating attacking force. They also have arguably the best goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois, and a side peppered with top drawer players like Cesar Azpilicueta, Pedro and Willian.

They had one of the league’s best defensive records last season and have brought in Antonio Rudiger to provide competition for David Luiz and Gary Cahill. They look set to lose Diego Costa, who has a bad relationship with Conte, but the £60 million capture of Alvaro Morata has drawn plaudits from across Europe and he should replace the goals they will lose from Costa.

The only managers ever to successfully defend the Premiership title are Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, so Conte is bidding to join a small and elite group. Competition is extremely fierce, but have any of their rivals improved enough to overtake them? Tottenham came closest last season, and they have sold Kyle Walker and made no signings, causing Conte to publicly question their ambition. They are a young and improving side, but have to adapt to a new stadium and will struggle to win the title if they suffer injuries as their squad players are not up to scratch. Man City have spent an outrageous amount of money, but all they have to show for it is three pretty good full-backs, an exciting winger and an unproven goalkeeper. They already had exciting wingers and finished third last season. Claudio Bravo was a disaster but Ederson is 23 and only has one full season under his belt, so who knows if he will be any better. And full-backs are all well and good but full-backs do not win you the title and City have not addressed their biggest weakness: central defence. Meanwhile Man Utd, sixth last season, have replaced Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Romelu Lukaku and strengthened defensively, but they do not score enough goals and have not signed any creative players to rectify that.

It is difficult to imagine Arsenal actually winning the title after all this time, and Liverpool’s thin squad will be stretched by the Champions League, while it is far too early for Everton to contend. City, Utd and Spurs are the greatest threats to Chelsea’s crown, and there is little evidence that they have improved enough to wrest it away from Stamford Bridge, so 7/2 on Chelsea to win the league actually looks really good. Analyse a review of the odds at Bookmaker and have a think about it. Chelsea were the best team in the league last season and have since kicked on, while the jury is very much out on their rivals, particularly Man City, so Chelsea could well do it.



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