Chelsea win the Premier League: 10 moments that led them to the title
Chelsea are champions again following a 1-0 win at West Brom on Friday. Here are 10 decisive moments that set them on their way to winning the Premier League.
July 16, 2016: Kante is signed
N'Golo Kante is the first player in Premier League history to win consecutive titles with different clubs. When Leicester sold him to Chelsea, they cashed in their prime asset and the French international's loss was felt from the first day of the season when the defending champions lost 2-1 at Hull. It took Leicester six months to recover their step, and only after manager Claudio Ranieri paid the price with his job.
Meanwhile, once Antonio Conte found the ideal role for Kante after a brief settling period, Chelsea dominated opponents in midfield.
Aug. 14, 2016: Arsenal vulnerability exposed early
The scoreline of Liverpool's 4-3 opening weekend victory flattered Arsenal and spelled out that the previous season's runners-up might struggle. The defensive problems that Arsene Wenger's team suffered against Jurgen Klopp's fast-breaking attackers gave critics of the Gunners' boss brigade an early outing. There would be plenty of more opportunities throughout the season.
At that moment, Liverpool looked capable of sustaining a challenge for the top four at the very least, with Philippe Coutinho (two goals) and Sadio Mane in full flow.
Sept. 10, 2016: Mourinho vs. Guardiola, Round 1
The two Manchester clubs were supposed to duke it out for supremacy at the top of the league given the arrival of megastar managers Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Both teams began this Old Trafford fixture with three wins from their first three games but City's 2-1 win and thrilling first-half performance suggested that a season of blue dominance awaited.
Yet that did not transpire. United's goal, three minutes before half-time with them 2-0 down, was scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic following a flap by debutant City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. It was the shape of things to come.
Sept. 24, 2016: Conte changes his approach
A manager can learn far more in defeat than in victory. Conte's Chelsea were losing 3-0 at Arsenal after 40 minutes; 10 minutes into the second half, the Italian had seen enough and switched his team's formation to the three-man defence with which he had enjoyed success with Juventus.
Chelsea would win their next 13 league matches, conceding only four goals. The shift also signified that the Chelsea careers of both John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic were effectively at an end as Conte carved his team into the shape he liked.
Oct. 2, 2016: Perfection ends for Guardiola
Until they visited Celtic in the Champions League the Wednesday before their visit to Tottenham, Man City had won 10 straight matches. A frantic 3-3 draw in Glasgow hinted they could be vulnerable to an opponent who pressed them into mistakes.
Then, as a Tottenham team shorn of injured Harry Kane tore them apart in a 2-0 White Hart Lane win, City were exposed and their problems would spiral from there. They could win only three of their next nine league matches as they fell too far behind Chelsea to ever truly catch up.
Nov. 6: United's sixth sense
When Manchester United won 3-1 at Swansea following a fine strike from Paul Pogba and a brace from Ibrahimovic, it arrested a run of only one victory from their previous eight matches and lifted them from eighth place to sixth.
United's ship was steadied; too steady, in fact. From their 11th match until their 29th, they would remain in sixth, bystanders to the title race and the top four, a perch they've never reached since. Despite being unbeaten for 25 games, 12 draws in that remarkable run meant they didn't really have a chance.
Jan. 2: Liverpool lose Mane
A 2-2 draw at Sunderland was a poor result for title-chasing Liverpool, but it was the beginning of a pattern. Sadio Mane scored their second, but it was his only club action until Jan. 31 as he headed to the African Cup of Nations with Senegal. Liverpool would win only one match of seven during his absence, the lone victory being an FA Cup replay against League Two Plymouth.
Liverpool had entered 2017 in second place but would end January in fourth, 10 points behind Chelsea. The loss of Mane to a knee injury in April later endangered their top-four position.
Jan. 14: Costa is shown who is boss
Aside from Spurs' valiant late charge, the greatest threat to Chelsea's title challenge was probably the looming loss of their leading scorer in January. When Diego Costa was tempted by a lucrative move to China's Tianjin Quanjian, he was immediately dropped from the team for a match at Leicester, and Eden Hazard was instead employed as the central forward.
Chelsea won 3-0 at a canter, and Costa, convinced to stay, returned the next week to score against Hull in a 2-0 win. He looks likely to be allowed to go this summer but only after Conte had his way first.
April 16: Mourinho gets his revenge
If a sting in the tail is required, Mourinho is the man to provide it. Just when Chelsea's progress to a trophy-lifting party looked serene, their former manager proved a point.
His team selection, which included dropping Ibrahimovic to the bench, looked like a surrender. Instead, United swarmed all over Chelsea, with Marcus Rashford's pace putting them to the sword. United's was a comprehensive 2-0 victory and the leaders, out in front since Nov. 5, began to look over their shoulders at Tottenham, just four points behind.
May 5: Hammers blunt Spurs
Like last season, Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham had the role as sole pursuer of a runaway leader. They have been the most consistent team over two seasons but each time their title chase was in vain. To catch Chelsea, they would have needed to win their last 13 league matches.
After nine victories in a row, they came a cropper on a rancorous Friday night at the London Stadium. West Ham, though a shell of a team all season, beat a curiously lethargic Spurs 1-0 through a goal from Manuel Lanzini. It left Chelsea needing just two wins from four matches.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.