Though it has already been a season marked by surprising results in the English Premier League (with Everton, who two seasons ago barely avoided relegation and last season finished fourth, sitting at the bottom of the table; with two of the teams promoted this season in the top ten, West Ham United in fourth and Wigan Athletic in eighth; with Manchester United and Arsenal off to uncharacteristically bad starts and sitting, at fifth and seventh, respectively, between those two promoted teams; and with Charlton Athletic solidly in second), this season’s champion is increasingly unlikely to be a surprise. About a half dozen games into the thirty-eight game season, Chelsea looks to have run away with the Premiership. Though their current six-point lead may not look large (especially since Charlton Athletic has a game in hand), it’s probably pretty close to insurmountable, the more so because the closest team with the personnel to catch Chelsea over the course of a full season is Manchester United, and they’re ten points back.
Watching the Premiership with the champion already a foregone conclusion is that little bit less exciting. But this is made worse by the fact that, despite their captain’s protestations to the contrary, Chelsea plays terminally boring soccer. Nearly every game I’ve seen them play over the past year or so has offered the same plot: The challenger works very hard to keep Chelsea from scoring for the first hour or so without ever threatening to score themselves, and then Chelsea effortlessly scores a goal or two in the last half hour. The games are usually close, but they’re rarely interesting and never exciting. This may or may not be negative soccer, and they’re certainly an extraordinarily good team, but the continuing success of Chelsea’s approach doesn’t bode well for entertaining soccer in England.