Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned Chelsea that next season could be a “different story” when the Premier League champions have to juggle domestic and European concerns.
Antonio Conte’s side secured the title on Friday with a 1-0 win at West Brom, having led from the front since November while their rivals were battling it out in the Champions League.
Despite their superb 3-0 humbling of the Blues in late September, Arsenal struggled to stay the course in the title race and, as has been the case over recent years under Wenger, crashed out of contention just as their European commitments were mounting.
Chelsea had no such balancing act to perform having finished 10th last season, when Leicester stunned the world by going from relegation candidates to champions.
With Liverpool having also mounted a sustained title challenge in 2014-15 without the distraction of Europe, Wenger believes Chelsea may find the four-pronged assault on silverware to be a significant challenge.
“I congratulate Chelsea for what they’ve done,” he said after Arsenal’s 4-1 win at Stoke. “But when you see them play in Europe I think it will be a different story.
“We struggled a lot after what happened to us against Bayern Munich [where they were eliminated 10-2 on aggregate in the Champions League round of 16], it was a big blow. It was still possible to come back to Chelsea then.
“They played well. Congratulations to them. But the last two years a team that hasn’t played in Europe has won the league.
“It will be a different season because they will have to play Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday.
But with the likes of Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante and Thibaut Courtois leading Conte’s bid for glory, there may be reason to believe that these side could walk the tightrope more successfully, with Wenger conceding that Chelsea have “exceptional quality”.
The struggles of English sides to compete in Europe and England have mirrored the Premier League’s decline in the Champions League rat race as, for the second time in the last three seasons, none of its clubs made the semi-finals.
Arsenal’s conquerors Bayern cruised to the German title before April was over, while finalists Real Madrid remain locked in a tussle with Barcelona for La Liga’s crown despite their own sizeable fixture list.
Wenger said of why European clubs are balancing competitions more effectively than English teams: “In Spain Real Madrid can win games by playing at a lower percentage than their maximum.
“Maybe also Real Madrid are better than us.
“Bayern is similar, they dominate the German championship in a very easy way.”
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