Many people believe that a key part of winning titles is consistency.
Whilst one can be restricted by injuries and suspensions, if untroubled, a starting XI could arguably remain almost identical from the opening game of the season to the closing game. Fatigue can set in over the course of a 38-game campaign - or more games if progressing well in other competitions - but, at the top level of the professional game, training levels should be high enough to see the first-team through the entire season without much change.
Burnley won promotion from the Championship last season on a shoestring budget, with injures fortuitously avoiding the club, allowing manager Sean Dyche to build a strong unit, and then keep utilising them for the entire campaign.
On the other end of the spectrum is Manchester United this season, who have been decimated by injuries - with David De Gea and Daley Blind likely to miss a number of weeks after suffering on international duty - and only surviving the rigours of the Premier League due to the individual talent of a number of their stars.
Using both examples, it can be deduced that having both individual talent and a small squad is the ideal to achieve success, and one club are fulfilling both traits this campaign - Chelsea.
The Blues currently lead the Premier League title race after 11 games, sitting four points clear of second-placed Southampton, and eight clear of Manchester City - the club expected to challenge for the title this season. Jose Mourinho’s men have yet to lose a game in any competition this term, and his squad rotation policy appears to be a key part of the West Londoners’ success.
Mourinho has used just 20 players in the Premier League heading into mid-November, whereas the Red Devils have been forced to field an incredible tally of 31 individuals. Mourinho has been lucky with injuries - although Diego Costa and Loic Remy’s simultaneous absence resulted in Didier Drogba leading the line for a few games - and he has yet to dig into the youth ranks to call-up a player who would be unlikely to feature in the first-team ranks this season - something United have had to do.
The three top clubs - Chelsea, Southampton and Man City - have been incredibly reserved with their player choice, with the Blues and City using 20 each, and the Saints using 21. Whilst the argument could be dismantled by comparing Chelsea and City’s fortunes - with the latter faltering despite using the same number of players in an arguably more talented squad - it must be noted that Chelsea have consistently kept the same defensive line, whilst City don’t have one ever-present individual in their team.
Cesar Azpilicueta only lost his place in the starting XI through suspension, and Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry and Gary Cahill have all featured in all 11 games so far. On contrast, Vincent Kompany is the only City defender to have reached the 10-game mark this season, whilst Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta - the second-highest selected defenders - have made just seven appearances each.
Luck has been a key part of Jose Mourinho’s campaign with Chelsea this season, and he has been helped by the incredible form of summer arrival’s Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. However, he is a brilliant tactician, and his use of the smallest squad in the Premier League is to utilise the efficiency of the starting XI as a unit. Whilst injuries and suspensions may cost the Blues their unbeaten run, they could well secure an invincible season should they be fortunate enough to continue the squad policy that has been used so well heading into the hectic Christmas period of the Premier League campaign.