Top four may be a lost cause, but how high can Chelsea go?

No one in the Premier League is on a longer unbeaten streak than Chelsea is right now. It’s true. For a team that was barely above the relegation zone at one point, they have managed to right the ship ever so slightly. Now, they are surely on their way back to a top-four spot by the end of the season. Ok, that might be asking too much of Guus Hiddink’s men, but it does raise an interesting question. What is realistic for this Chelsea team?

Teams battling relegation don’t tend to shoot up the table and are more concerned with simply surviving, not thriving. Chelsea isn’t like other relegation battlers. Aston Villa and Sunderland don’t have Deigo Costa, John Terry, Thibaut Courtois or Cesc Fabregas. Chelsea’s start to the season was so shocking that their fall from grace is constantly seen as temporary. With every win or winning streak pundits will be quick to proclaim that Chelsea is back.

With Jose Mourinho shown the door and Hiddink brought in, Chelsea have managed a slow and steady climb out of the Premier League’s basement, but they are still a long way from where they want to be. 14 points ahead of Chelsea is Tottenham. The North London squad is in fourth, and the gap seems too much to overcome. But, just where is the line for Chelsea? If fourth is too far, what about fifth? That would see them finish in a Europa League spot. Fifth place is only 9 points away.

The Problem for Chelsea is that while they are playing better, they’re still not playing well enough. They have the longest active unbeaten streak in the league, but only 3 of those matches are wins, the rest are draws. They even had a dubious draw that Everton fans are probably still bitter about. If you take their current points total, Chelsea is on pace for 46 points. Last season that would be good enough for 13th place, which is where Chelsea find themselves now. But, let’s agree that they have gotten better. Their current seven-match unbeaten run would amount to 70 points over the course of a full season. Last year that would put them in a tie for fourth place.

The thing is, they haven’t been playing at that pace all season. so 70 points are pretty unlikely. They need to earn 42 out of a possible 45 remaining points to reach 70. However, If they manage to keep their current pace up for the remaining 15 matches they can expect to pick up an extra 27 points. That would put them at 55 which would have been ninth place last season.

Chelsea’s most realistic goal for the end of the season should be a spot in single digits. Given their abysmal start to the season, finishing in ninth or higher would be seen as a relative accomplishment. Hiddink has improved the back line, and has gotten some consistency from his team. But there are still a few issues, like Eden Hazard’s mysterious loss of form, that need to be ironed out.

Making the top-four is almost certainly a lost cause for Chelsea, and so is fifth for that matter. Finishing outside of a Champions League place will be considered a failure in London, but the team have started moving in the right direction. It’s just a little too late to expect anything other than midtable.

Chelsea’s only chance at a place in next year’s Champions League is to win the Champions League this year, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. It has happened once before.

About Harrison Prolic

Northern Illinois graduate with a degree in Journalism. Full-time page designer in Madison, Wisconsin. Part time follower of all things German soccer. I tweet about the Bundesliga and plenty of other sports @hprolic.