Whoever writes Jose Mourinho's scripts does, at least, have a certain sense of humor. After all the snark of the last month or so, how better for Chelsea to win a title than with a one-nil win, a loudly disputed penalty and, by the end, six defenders plus John Obi Mikel on the pitch. We know that Jose wakes up every morning and asks the Big Man upstairs for whatever might most irritate everybody else. Now we've got proof that He listens.
There isn't really such a thing as an undeserving champion, since league seasons are pretty rigorous. But even so, there can be little doubt that Chelsea are the best team in the country: they have a terrifying defense, a midfield that is generally productive and always obdurate, a lethal-when-fit striker and, in Eden Hazard, the best player in the land. Though this season's campaign hasn't been marked by any long winning streaks, unlike last season's two contenders, they've lost only twice, and perhaps more impressively have only once managed not to bounce back from any dropped point with an immediate victory.
So they're good. Very, very good. The best, even. Yet they're exceptionally unlikely to go down in history as one of the great Premier League champions, for two probably unfair yet completely inevitable reasons.
The first is that they're very, very hard to like. This is silly, obviously, but it matters. Yes, being likable isn't the same as being good, and yes, every title-winning team has had its fair share of prickishness. But it's desperately hard (as a neutral) to warm to a team (even one with Hazard) that is built on a spine of the inexplicably snide (though brilliant) Diego Costa at one end and the meatily vainglorious (though also brilliant) John Terry at the other. Particularly when they don't have the good grace to stride out and wallop their inferiors 8-0 every week. If you're going to be arseholes, at least be magnificent ones.
Helen Lovejoy-handwringing aside, the more important reason that the 2014/15 Chelsea side are unlikely to go down in history as one of the great championships is because the 2014/15 Premier League is unlikely to go down in history as one of the great top division seasons. Greatness is to a large degree dependent on context, and context in football usually means competition. Jose Mourinho may have pointedly congratulated himself on choosing to try to win the title in one of Europe's more difficult leagues, and Chelsea haven't quite dismissed the opposition in the manner of (to pick a team totally at random) Bayern Munich, but they've cantered home ahead of a poor field.
Chelsea have been top of the table for every week of the season bar one — the second, when Tottenham briefly held a superior goal difference — and by the time November rolled around, the entire nation had already realized that the only way this season could be exciting was if (a) Chelsea managed to enter the last stretch still unbeaten, or (b) Manchester City made a race of it.
The first of those possibilities died in early December when, after a couple of weeks of fevered and premature press speculation about whether Chelsea could match Arsenal in league invincibility, they contrived to lose to Newcastle (!); the second died in January when City, having reduced the advantage at the top to an alphabetical one, waved Yaya Toure off to the African Cup of Nations and promptly dropped nine points in four games. After that, it would have taken something profoundly stupid from Chelsea to stop the inevitable, and this is not a stupid team, and they do not have a stupid manager.
Accusations of being boring as a side are largely a matter of personal taste — or, in the case of those coming from north London, a transparent swipe for a moral trophy in the absence of a real one — and do rather tend to gloss over some glorious team goals, particularly in the first half of the season, as well as Hazard. But interesting champions require interesting championships, and the fact is that while Chelsea stepped up from last season, everybody else stood still or fell over.
Which is, in the final measure, a shame. The disappointment that comes from this title race is not the manner in which Chelsea won the thing — they won't care, and nor should anybody else: a team does what it has to do — but the lingering sense to the neutral that this is a team who could have been better than they were ever required to be. You could almost argue that they haven't played a must-win game — in the league, that is — all season, and so we never found out if there are higher gears to this team. They never really needed to engage them.
None of this takes away the value of the title in itself; there are no asterisks for performance-enhancing opponents. And none of this will matter one shred to a Chelsea fan, whose bank holiday hangovers will be just as well-earned as any other side's fans in history. Chelsea were comfortably the best team in the league this season. But while Mourinho won't be asking for this, the rest of the world should be: let's hope that somebody — be it a finally-resilient Arsenal, a reconfigured City, an overhauled United or a back-on-the-Rodgers-bandwagon Liverpool — forces them to prove it. Uncomfortably.