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Fulham set to finish above Chelsea for first time since 1983

As the Premier League season approaches its climax, we’ve priced Chelsea up at 11/4 to finish above West London neighbours Fulham.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround in the two teams’ fortunes considering Fulham were as big as 10/1 to finish above Chelsea for the first time since 1983 as recently as January, before Chelsea’s stuttering form turned into a full-on implosion.

Fulham not only achieved something they’d failed to do since 2006 in taking all three points off their rivals, but followed it up with a draw at Stamford Bridge meaning that as early as January, one of the pre-season relegation favourites were virtually safe.

It’s been a much less stressful season for the Cottagers than many envisioned last summer. Backed by many to continue their yo-yoing between the Premier League and Championship, they’ve never looked in any kind of danger going all the way back to their thoroughly deserved draw against Liverpool on the opening day.

They’ve arguably been the league’s biggest over-achievers, even if they’ve ridden their luck with the xG gods, with the biggest differential between goal difference and expected goal difference in the division. But at the halfway stage, a tilt at European football wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility, with the Cottagers sitting comfortably in sixth place.

It means that at the start of May, Fulham fans can rest easy looking down on those below them and start planning for next season.

But despite a recent drop-off in form – Fulham have taken just six points from their last nine games, which if replicated over a whole season would certainly see them relegated, if not finishing rock bottom – they should have enough to finish in the top half for the first time since 2012, which can be backed at 3/10.

Two miles across town, however, and Chelsea’s season can’t end quickly enough. It has been an unmitigated disaster; arguably the worst season of any club in Premier League history, and it means Fulham are now 1/4 to finish above Chelsea; unthinkable at the start of the season. 

With an outlay of around £500m, the Blues are on their third manager of the season and look set to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League for the first time since 1996. 

It’s been an unprecedented season for Chelsea on a number of fronts. Barring a remarkable turnaround in the next few weeks, they look set to finish not just in the bottom half (1/6) for the first time in nearly three decades, but below Fulham for the first time since 1983, and that’s on top of losing to Fulham back in January for the first time since 2006. 

The club look set to hire Mauricio Pochettino, which should be a turning point, and the Argentine is a significant upgrade on Graham Potter and Frank Lampard, but it’s worth remembering Todd Boehly dispatched of an elite coach in Thomas Tuchel as recently as last November.

The squad is a bloated mess on the back of a scattergun recruitment policy which may have hamstrung the 2021 Champions League winners going forward. Potential financial issues could see the club forced to sell before they can buy; something their rivals will be all too aware of, hoping to acquire quality players at a cut price.

In the summer, following Boehly’s arrival in London, the Blues spent £30m on 31-year-old Kalidou Koulibaly, as well as £70m after a protracted transfer saga to bring Wesley Fofana to the club, with the young Frenchman missing most of the campaign through injury. 

Around £60m was spent on Marc Cucurella, who’s looked sorely out of his depth, while the search for forward options was limited to the £50m Raheem Sterling before a rather uninspiring move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. So toothless were the Blues that Joao Felix and Mykhaylo Mudryk were brought to the club in January, contributing to a total of four goals in 30 appearances.

Who’s on the pitch next August for Chelsea’s opening game of the 2023/24 Premier League season is anyone’s guess, but getting Pochettino in sooner rather than later would at least be a big step in the right direction.

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