Two weeks ago, we noted that Chelsea looked to have finally stabilized under Rafa Benítez. Their 3-0 win that day over a floundering Fulham may have lacked a level of difficulty, but with a road draw at Liverpool and today’s 2-0 over Swansea, the narrative’s rounding out. Chelsea have gotten their bearings just in time to hold on to a top-four spot.
This weekend’s results may prove particularly important in that chase. Tottenham stumbled in Wigan and were lucky to get away with a point, a result that will still see them lose two points on the Blues. From Chelsea’s point of view, all they have to do is beat out Spurs or Arsenal to reclaim a top-four spot, and with Tottenham sitting three points back, Chelsea now have some room for error.
In the coming weeks, Chelsea go to Manchester United before hosting Spurs. That’s not to mention a Europa League match on Wednesday and a season-ender with Everton. The only easy match in their run-in is a May 11 visit to Aston Villa, but with their opponents likely to be battling for their Premier League lives when the Blues arrive in Birmingham, not even that game can be taken for granted. The three-point gap may prove vital.
That Chelsea built that lead with a win over Swans was another sign of progress. No doubt, Swans aren’t the threat they were earlier this year. They haven’t won since March 2, possibly letting up after winning the League Cup. But that League Cup run came at Chelsea’s expense, with Michael Laudrup’s side eliminating the Blues in the semifinals.
This time, goals from Oscar and Frank Lampard just short of halftime eliminated all doubt. On the road, down two, with little to play for, Swansea where always unlikely to find their January form, allowing the Blues to site one point clear of fourth place Arsenal.
Now, as they approach the four-match stretch which will determine the top-four fate, Chelsea is playing better than at any other time under Benítez. Or at least, they’ve stabilized in a good place. And thanks to their three-point gap on Spurs, Chelsea can afford a stumble against Manchester United or Tottenham while maintaining their Champions League hopes.