Spurs win the league! We redistribute Chelsea’s 21 tainted pots

Dave Tickner

With the government, the football authorities and assorted sponsors now having a belated look at Chelsea and going full Mayor Quimby discovering that Springfield has a Burlesque House, things look pretty bleak for the Londoners.

The Roman Empire has crumbled as it turns out Roman Abramovich might not have been the good guy everyone in football thought he was with absolutely no possible reason to suspect otherwise.

While his time at Chelsea brought vast success, that success is now forever tainted. They may have famously “won the lot” in the Abramovich Era but it now counts for quite literally nothing.

It gives us no pleasure to do this, but we simply have no alternative but to go back through the years and sort out the true, deserving winners of each and every one of Chelsea’s 21 ill-gotten gains. It took us a lot longer than we’d initially bargained for.

TL;DR – Arsenal and Manchester United do pretty well out of it, Liverpool win The Double and most outrageously of all Spurs win the league.


2004/05 Carling Cup
Chelsea entered the League Cup in round three and we really, really can’t be arsed to imagine what might have happened had they had to do round two due to not being in Europe. We may be the sort of maniac willing to spend all day trying to extricate Chelsea from the last two decades of English football, but even we have our limits.

So, round three where they beat London rivals West Ham 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. That tie is now a walkover for the happy Hammers, who face Newcastle in the last 16. With West Ham in the Championship that season, the chances are it would be Premier League Newcastle who progress. We never said this would be foolproof.

On go the Toon to the quarter-finals, then, and a trip to Fulham. Now this one’s tough to call: they finished on the same number of Premier League points – 44 – and each had a convincing away win in their league encounters. Fulham won 4-1 at St James’ Park and Newcastle 3-1 at Craven Cottage. As this hypothetical League Cup clash is at the Cottage, we’re going to have to go with the visitors.

So it’s onwards to a two-legged semi-final against Manchester United for Newcastle. And this one’s nice and easy. Newcastle lost home and away to Manchester United in the Premier League, and thus Sir Alex Ferguson’s side set up a humdinger of a final against Liverpool.

United finished 19 points clear of Liverpool in the league and so are clear winners here because there is quite simply no way the Liverpool side of 2005 was capable of pulling off something extraordinarily unlikely in a cup final.
New winners: Manchester United


2004/05 Premier League
Nice and easy, this one. Arsenal’s Invincibles may not have matched the history-making exploits of the previous season but with Chelsea’s 95 illegitimate points struck from the record the Gunners still defend their title with some ease. Expunging their draws against Chelsea leaves Arsenal with 81 points from their 36 games, still four clear of Manchester United despite Sir Fergie’s side losing home and away to the dastardly Blues.

FA Cup winners Arsenal also therefore claim The Double while Everton finish third and Liverpool fourth – thus avoiding all that unpleasant awkwardness of needing to squeeze five English clubs into the following season’s Champions League.
New winners: Arsenal


2005 Community Shield
With Arsenal now holding both the league title and FA Cup, they take on Premier League runners-up Manchester United in the Traditional Season Curtain Raiser. Now picking a winner here is slightly tricky because not only is it not a real major trophy, it’s also not even really a proper competitive match. It is the original and greatest of Glorified Friendlies (not that anything is particularly friendly when these two sides meet, Clive!!!!1!!one!). Luckily, Arsenal and Manchester United’s dominance in the years preceding Chelsea’s rouble-powered arrival at the top table gives us a pretty reasonable Charity/Community Shield form guide to use. They had met in four of the previous seven such showpieces and Arsenal had won three – including in 2004 – while United’s sole victory came on penalties in 2003. The data is firmly in the Gunners’ favour here.
New winners: Arsenal


2005/06 Premier League
The first real bit of fun. Up to now we’ve just been inflating the already bountiful trophy counts of the two most successful clubs of the immediate pre-Abramovich era. It in some way explains – if not excuses – why the British football media largely turned a blind eye to what had turned Chelsea into such a force. They and everyone else had grown bored of the United-Arsenal duopoly and here was a new challenger led by the charming and endlessly quotable Jose Mourinho before he became an embittered parody account of himself. But it turns out we didn’t need Chelsea and their billions to generate a media-pleasing narrative.

Although Manchester United finished second, they foolishly picked up three of their 83 points against Mourinho’s men. Third-placed Liverpool were not so daft, shrewdly collecting all their 82 points from teams whose entirely unproblematic ownership would not cause a single issue 16 years down the line.

Thus Liverpool’s long wait for a league title ends at a mere 16 years and Rafa Benitez follows up his Champions League success of the previous year with a domestic Double to firmly cement his place among the absolute greats. He also probably never has that “facts” rant, or manages Newcastle. Or Everton.

Spurs, meanwhile, spend the final day of the season cheerfully vomiting their way to an irrelevant defeat at West Ham, having long since secured a top-four finish and a first foray into the Champions League.
New winners: Liverpool


2006/07 League Cup
Okay, we are starting to regret heading down this road now. Twenty-one trophies is a lot, isn’t it? This is a very, very longwinded way to poke fun at Chelsea’s current misfortune when we could have just sent a snarky tweet instead. We only embarked on this because it was going to be funny to give Spurs a Premier League title. Look forward to that in about 3000 words’ time.

Anyway. Another year, another League Cup win for Mourinho and co. So who ends up with everyone’s favourite inexplicably three-handled trophy this time around now it turns out Chelsea don’t count?

The Blues kicked things off in round three with a 2-0 win over Blackburn, who now instead get a walkover to meet Aston Villa. Remarkably, we’re once again left to separate two very evenly-matched sides in this all-Premier League clash. Blackburn finished that season in 10th with 52 points, with Villa one spot and two points behind.

But the head-to-heads give us a clear winner here, Villa doing a league double over their mid-table rivals and thus easing into the quarter-finals of a tournament taking place entirely in our increasingly damaged head.

Here they meet Newcastle and it’s a win apiece from their league games that season. Villa get the victory here, though, thanks to being nine points better off in the league. It’s as fair as we can make it.

So Villa now find themselves in the semi-final against plucky League Two giantkillers Wycombe, and we have to imagine it’s the Villans who win this day.

Arsenal against Villa in the final, then. The Gunners were demonstrably the better side and although their league matches were tight, it was Arsenal who took four points from their encounters thanks to a 1-1 draw at Highbury and a 1-0 win at Villa Park. Another pot finds itself heading Wenger’s way.
New winners: Arsenal


2006/07 FA Cup
Another cup. Great. Come on, let’s rattle through the formalities before inevitably ending up with more silverware for Arsenal or United.

Macclesfield are our first big winners, not only by reaching round four but also having a 6-1 drubbing officially* struck from the record books. Sadly, that’s as good as it gets for Macc, who bow out to Nottingham Forest.

League One Forest are promptly dispatched in the last 16 by Championship Norwich, who lose out to Tottenham in the quarter-finals.

That leaves Spurs taking on Blackburn in the last four. Both their league encounters ended in draws, so that doesn’t help. In theory, we should now side with Spurs because they were fifth and Blackburn 10th.

However, we’re only trying to remove Chelsea from football history here, not pretend football history itself doesn’t exist entirely. And the simple fact is this: Tottenham do not win FA Cup semi-finals. Not since 1991 have they done so. They have lost eight in the intervening 30 years. Some of those defeats have been against decent Arsenal, Manchester United and, yes, Chelsea sides. But some were against Portsmouth and Everton and Newcastle. They can’t reasonably be handed an FA Cup semi-final win against anyone. Thus it is Blackburn who progress and get spanked by <checks notes>, sigh, Manchester United in the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley.
New winners: Manchester United

*Not actually official


2008/09 FA Cup
Chelsea needed a replay – eh, here, who remembers replays?! Eh? Hey? Anyone? You sir, you look like a man who remembers replays – to get past Southend in round three. The Shrimpers don’t need a replay to skip past the no-longer-there Chelsea, but they come undone against Ipswich in the last 32.

Ipswich then head to Watford for an all-Championship clash so once again to the league results we go for an unimpeachably accurate and reliable guide to what would definitely happen in this fictitious encounter, because if there’s one thing that keeps us coming back to football time and again it’s the sure and certain knowledge that exactly what you expect to happen based on factors is always what will happen. This is also why all bookmakers are poor. Anyway, four points for Watford in their league games against Ipswich so on they go to the quarter-finals and wouldn’t you know it – another clash with Championship opposition. (As an aside, this whole nonsense isn’t doing much to quieten the conspiracy theory that Chelsea always get easy cup draws.)

Coventry this time; Watford beat them home and away in the league so we have to go with the Hornets again in this one. Sadly that’s where the fun must end for our brave Championship heroes as they come unstuck against Arsenal, who you have to believe then beat Everton in the final much as Chelsea did (2-1, from behind) in the darkest timeline that we are at last putting right. Everton finished fifth to Arsenal’s fourth so they can be reasonably expected to have put up a fight but ultimately Arsenal sometimes win trophies and Everton in the 21st century do not. Unsurprisingly, it’s another pot for one of the Big Two whose fun in our dimension had been so rudely intruded upon by those ghastly nouveau riche rotters from the Bridge.
New winners: Arsenal


2009 Community Shield
That sets up yet another Manchester United v Arsenal Community Shield and we’ve already established what happens in those. More quasi-glory for the Gunners here to begin their season.
New winners: Arsenal


2009/10 Premier League
Under the watchful gaze of Carlo Ancelotti’s eyebrow, Chelsea pipped Manchester United to the title by a single point with Arsenal a further 10 adrift. Straightforward here, then. It’s another Premier League medal for Fergie to chuck on his massive, massive Scrooge McDuck-style pile of Premier League medals. We’re rattling through these now. Good stuff, and in no way do we feel we’ve wasted our ever-dwindling time on this planet by spending 2,000 words awarding pretty much all Chelsea’s trophies to either Arsenal or Manchester United. No siree. In other news: Manchester City qualify for the Champions League for the first time despite a 1-0 home defeat to fellow qualifiers Spurs, who are by this point old hands in the Big Cup now, of course, and set for their third appearance having also qualified in 2006 and 2008.
New winners: Manchester United


2009/10 FA Cup
Now I know we’ve gone through other cup competitions (reasonably) methodically (shut up, we have) to come up with whole new routes to the finals and such, but we’re not f***ing about here. The real-life beaten finalists Portsmouth get this one and that’s all there is to it. Wigan have subsequently shown that the Relegation-FA Cup Double is perfectly doable. Portsmouth now just happen to get there a few years earlier. Mainly, though, we just want to take a trophy off Chelsea and hand it to a side managed by Avram Grant.
New winners: Portsmouth


2011/12 FA Cup
Portsmouth profit once again from Chelsea’s demise, this time thanks to a third-round bye and no 4-0 twatting at Stamford Bridge. They go no further this time, though, as a return to our hard-and-fast ‘no shocks’ rule that we just flew into the sun means the Championship side lose out to a just-about Premier League QPR in the next round, as do Birmingham in round five.

Into the quarter-finals where we find ourselves typing the sentence about (fictitious, admittedly) events of almost exactly one decade ago that QPR would obviously beat Leicester because there are no upsets here. That throws up a semi-final against Tottenham and another problem. On the one hand, there’s our ‘no upsets’ rule. On the other, there’s life’s ‘Spurs don’t win FA Cup semi-finals’ rule. Given Spurs lost to a Portsmouth side that actually did get relegated two seasons earlier, we’re comfortable enough with the fact a QPR side that just about stayed up would also have done them over after extra-time. And then got royally spangled by Liverpool in the final.
New winners: Liverpool


2011/12 Champions League
Obviously they don’t even get to be in it, their second-place Premier League finish in 2010/11 no longer being a thing. In a nice twist, our fantasy world propels fifth-placed Spurs into the Champions League. They take Arsenal’s spot in the play-off round to very probably bollocks things up against Udinese. Tough draw, that. Arsenal move up to take City’s spot, and City take Chelsea’s. Obviously none of this really translates perfectly because of seedings and coefficients and whatnot but this long ago stopped being a thing that made any kind of sense and became a lengthy cry for help. So City go into a group with Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia and Genk. Given they failed to get out of a group containing Bayern and Napoli we’re not quite sure whether they negotiate Chelsea’s but we reckon they probably pip Valencia to second because why not.

Bayer Leverkusen are our group winners, then, and into Chelsea’s knockout path they go. Napoli beat Chelsea 3-1 in the first leg of their last-16 clash and we’re damn sure they’re not making such a mess of that in a return leg against a Leverkusen side who in real life lost 10-2 on aggregate to Barcelona.

So Napoli against Benfica in the last eight. Who wins that one? Don’t know, don’t care, because either way they lose to Barcelona in the last four as the Gary Neville goalgasm disappears into the ether. Given the way Bayern Munich shat it with home advantage against Chelsea in real life, there’s no way they get the better of a peak Barcelona.
New winners: Barcelona


2012/13 Europa League
Fiddly as f*** this, if we’re going to do it remotely properly, given Chelsea dropped in from the Champions League. Even in the real world, this is a tournament Chelsea weren’t in at the start of the season so what are we supposed to do in our counterfactual one? A load of research and number-crunching and a whole new group stage and knockout bracket? Or just hand it to Sevilla on the basis that it’s a Europa League and that’s who mainly wins Europa Leagues? Yeah, you know it’s the second one.

Naysayers may point out that Sevilla weren’t even in the 2012/13 Europa League having finished a lowly ninth in the 2011/12 La Liga table, but to those people I say ‘Ah! But the butterfly effect, ah!’. Yeah, we’re now so deep into this that we can completely have our cake and eat it whenever we choose. So sweeping are the changes to 21st century football history that we’ve made, and so entwined in the continental game was Abramovich’s club, who knows what effect the non-flapping of Chelsea’s now non-existent wings might have had on the 2011/12 La Liga season? Could it have somehow magicked Sevilla up to sixth? Absolutely yes. Would Sevilla have then gone on to win the following season’s Europa League. Of course they would.
New winners: Sevilla

Europa League UEFA F365


2014/15 EFL Cup
Back to reality. Well, not reality, but an ever so slightly less unhinged and absurd fantasy world. Bolton get the third-round bye here, and then promptly sort out Shrewsbury next.

That’s the end of the line for the Trotters, though. It’s fellow Championship side Derby next up; they beat Bolton home and away by an aggregate score of 6-1 that season so are clearly going through in this one. But don’t celebrate too much, Derby fans. It’s Liverpool in the semi-finals and over two legs the Premier League class will surely tell.

That gives us Liverpool v Tottenham and with our 2022 hats on it seems straightforward, doesn’t it? But 2015 was a different time. Spurs finished above Liverpool, as they often did until really quite recently. Don’t worry, though, the world doesn’t spin completely off its axes. Liverpool beat Spurs home and away in the league and given that Spurs’ record in League Cup finals is starting to approach that of their FA Cup semi-finals (see above), it is with some relief that we’re able to avoid having to pretend they might have won a cup final, an act that requires such a suspension of disbelief as to render this whole endeavour pointless. Imagine if this were all a waste of time. Be pretty embarrassing, that.
New winners: Liverpool


2014/15 Premier League
Another nice easy one to reallocate. Second-placed Manchester City lose their two draws against Chelsea in our universe, but third-placed Arsenal drop four points from the Blues’ disappearance to fall further behind our new champions. That makes it three titles in four years for Manchester City, an astonishing level of dominance that could clearly never occur in a world that still contains Chelsea.
New winners: Manchester City


2016/17 Premier League
Here we, here we, here we f***ing go. Tottenham Hotspur are Premier League champions. Tottenham Hotspur are only on a five-year trophy drought, thank you very much, and Harry Kane does have a major title to tell the grandkids about. Never mind your Leicester Cities, here’s a real miracle fairytale as Spurs’ final season at the old White Hart Lane ends with a first league title since 1961 and Mauricio Pochettino in floods of tears hugging all the dignitaries and slightly embarrassed former players wheeled out for the occasion.

They’re handy winners, too, which is why we can’t even find a plausible way to Spursy them out of it. While Chelsea finished seven points clear of Spurs, Pochettino’s men were another eight in front of absolutely everyone else. Even when you remove a 2-0 home win over Chelsea from Tottenham’s record, there is still simply no catching them.
New winners: Tottenham


2017/18 FA Cup
Norwich get the third-round bye here – and fair enough because the Championship side took Antonio Conte’s defending Premier League champions all the way through a replay and to penalties in the real world version.

That’s the end of that, though, because Premier League Newcastle and the ‘no upsets’ rule await in round four. Newcastle duly dispatch another Championship side, Hull, in round five to set up a quarter-final clash with Leicester.

Not for the first time, our make-believe reality gives us a fascinating, tough-to-call contest. They finished ninth and tenth in the league and each won away from home by a single goal in their league meetings. Leicester finished three points above Newcastle, though, so they narrowly get the vote. But only after extra-time and penalties, quarter-final replays having been scrapped.

Leicester face Southampton in the last four, a side they took four points from in league combat including a 4-1 away win. They face Manchester United in the final and while Leicester have proved themselves well capable of pulling a Manchester club’s pants down, we have to go with the rulebook. Well, we don’t have to, as we’ve established in numerous previous examples of us just doing whatever we wanted. Man United drew at the King Power and beat Leicester 2-0 at Old Trafford, and that’s precisely the sort of superiority that absolutely cannot be upended in a Wembley final. Remember, months before beating City in the Community Shield final Leicester also gave them a 5-2 pasting at the Etihad in that brief, glorious and confusing period in the early stages of last season when all the results went mad for a bit. The rulebook would account for Leicester beating City last campaign; it cannot do so against United in 2018. Much as we’d like it to.
New winners: Manchester United


2018/19 Europa League
How do Chelsea only win Europa Leagues when Sevilla aren’t there? Even we have enough dignity and semblance of standards not to give Sevilla a second win in a tournament they weren’t in. And at least this time things are slightly easier because Chelsea were in the tournament from the start rather than dropping in from the big boys’ cup.

Chelsea qualified for the Europa League twice over in real life, having finished fifth and won the FA Cup. We’ve removed them from both those competitions, so that makes a mess. With Champions League qualifiers United now the FA Cup holders, that spot still goes to the side in seventh, which is Everton. Burnley join Arsenal in the group stages and, technically we should now move Arsenal into Chelsea’s pathway. But as they ended up meeting in the final anyway that all seems like a huge effort for no real benefit. Leave them be, and plonk Burnley into Chelsea’s place and Everton into Burnley’s. Far easier, but you can see why we just wanted to be able to give it to Sevilla. Everton we can at least get rid of pretty easily. They, like Burnley in the real world, would definitely have gone out to Olympiacos in the play-off round because that’s just a very Everton thing to do.

Burnley now inherit an almost sarcastically Europa group that was once Chelsea’s: BATE Borisov, Vidi and PAOK. We reckon Burnley could definitely have come second behind real-world runners-up BATE here. But that sends BATE into the Chelsea path, so that is who interests us now.

They are immediately sorted out by Malmo in the last 32, who in turn lose to Dynamo Kyiv in the last 16. They then come unstuck against Slavia Prague and it’s Eintracht Frankfurt who prevail against them in a tense and nervy two-legged semi-final.

While England no longer boasts all four European finalists they still have both winners as Arsenal win just the third continental pot in their history.
New winners: Arsenal


2020/21 Champions League
Leicester qualify in Chelsea’s place and we can’t be bothered to put them anywhere else in the draw but Chelsea’s spot. Coefficients be damned. Oh and look who we’ve got in the group stage here. F***ing Sevilla. Where were you when we needed you in the 2018/19 Europa League, eh? Still, never mind. Their European savvy is too much for Leicester, who finish second. Chelsea’s path becomes Sevilla’s, though, and we can tell you right now before we go any further that if this ends up with Sevilla winning the thing we’re going to get cross.

Oh wait, it’s worse. Chelsea played Atletico Madrid in the last 16 and Sevilla can’t play Atleti in the last 16. Cock it, let’s say Leicester win the group after all. Sevilla’s natural home is the Europa. They could easily have made a mess of this. Well done Leicester, you win the group. Bad luck, Leicester, you now lose to Atleti. So, too, do Porto in the last eight and now we have a blockbuster semi-final between the two Madrid clubs. We could look at that season’s La Liga games between them – Atleti obviously won La Liga as we know – but really there’s no need. We know what happens when the two Madrid teams meet in the Champions League. Real Madrid win in the most knife-twistingly painful manner imaginable. And while Real Madrid might not any longer be quite the side that won this bad boy four years in a row, that record is enough to give them the edge in a nervy, tense final against a Manchester City side that, for all its class, is still looking to break its duck at this most exalted of levels.
New winners: Real Madrid


2021 Super Cup
Why couldn’t the previous 19 have all been as easy as this? Of course Real Madrid beat Villarreal to win this one. What kind of shambles of a side would you have to be not to beat Villarreal with UEFA silverware at stake?
New winners: Real Madrid


2022 Club World Cup
Nobody even cared about Chelsea winning the real version, except for a weird compulsion to criticise them for celebrating it, so there’s going to be even less interest in this made-up one. Suffice to say, Real Madrid win it and f*** me that’s ticked us well past 4,000 words on things that didn’t happen.
New winners: Real Madrid