Putting Chelsea’s Premier League start into perspective
There’s simply no satisfying some people, is there? Just as Chelsea continue their unremittingly impressive start to the Premier League, it seems as if Roberto Di Matteo’s side are yet to convince the doubters of their championship credentials. But although their superb Eden Hazard-led charge out of the blocks has been superb, they’ve still got a hell of a way to go before they can be taken as any kind of serious challengers to Manchester City’s throne.
The talk at the beginning of the season circled around the buzzword of expectation. The visions of last season’s unprecedented success are all but champagne blurred memories. No one can ever take away Chelsea and Roberto Di Matteo’s amazing cup achievements last term, but this time, things are different. The Italian is now expected to win football matches and expected to challenge for silverware. There will be no plucky atmosphere of underdogs this term.
The scale of this summer’s investment has only cranked up the feeling of expectation, too. When you pay the sort of money that has been shelled out for the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar amongst others, you would imagine that Roman Abramovich wouldn’t mind seeing some kind of return on that.
Martin Tyler described Didier Drogba’s Champions League winning penalty as the biggest moment in the history of Chelsea Football Club. While the prestige and stature of winning a European Cup ensures that statement is correct, it is still after all, a cup. It has been bleated a thousand times within these articles, but while the best club doesn’t always win the cup, they always win the league. Premier League success is the yardstick amongst what everything else shall always be measured by and the Blues must ensure they are competitive on the domestic front.
Pre-season form suggested that this might not necessarily be quite as cut and dried as some observers predicted. Using the new term’s period of preparation and condition as some form of barometer for their Premier League fortunes has made a mug out of many. Although a string of pre-season defeats didn’t look particularly encouraging, especially after a lackluster 3-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion at the beginning of the month. While Hazard looked a mercurial talent, the rest of the team seemed to have some real work to do as both Di Matteo and Frank Lampard testified.
Some even continued to doubt the Stamford Bridge recruitment policy. Although they were in need of beefing up the attacking side of things, there was even a feeling that things were looking too top-heavy and unbalanced. Hazard’s £32million acquisition was followed by the arrivals of Marko Marin from Werder Bremen and the highly rated Oscar from Internacional. Victor Moses has since also joined but Cesar Azpilicueta has been their only defensive bolster.
So what did Chelsea do amongst the swirl of doubt and whispers of disapproval? Predictably, they’ve gone and won their first three games on the bounce, scoring eight goals in the process and playing some superb attacking football. Eden Hazard has arguably been the man of the match in every game they’ve played and Fernando Torres looks like something of a man reborn, leaving a large smattering of egg on many observers’ faces.
It’s somewhat pointing out the obvious, but you simply cannot look past the performances of Hazard in this early season galvanization of Stamford Bridge. The Belgian gave the impression he bestowed the sort of levels of confidence that veer perilously on the side of arrogance, before his big money switch to the Blues. Some thought that’d be an issue. Instead, it seems to have catalysed the fortunes of both him and his teammates as he’s swaggered around the first three games of the season, clocking up four assists and one goal in the process.
In fairness to Chelsea, the whole team has deserved merit for their superb start to Premier League proceedings. Juan Mata has been equally superb as his attacking colleagues and Ryan Bertrand has also caught the eye in these tentative stages of the season.
But whilst the doubters can hold their hands up in some respects, some certainly feel as if they’re overstepping the mark in these revised predictions for Chelsea’s season. If pre-season fortunes are a poor barometer for a team’s league fortunes, than the opening three games can hardly be taken as gospel. It’s early days at Stamford Bridge and Roberto Di Matteo’s men are yet to be really tested by one of the bigger boys.
You can only beat what is in front of you some will say, and to all intents and purposes, that’s bang on the money. Wins away to Wigan and at home to Reading don’t constitute the most strenuous of tests. Newcastle did of course finish above the Blues last season but without taking anything away from Chelsea’s performance, the Magpies looked jaded after a mid-season trip to Greece in the Europa League.
They have certainly looked more impressive than the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal so far and perhaps with their scale of investment, that is to be expected. Both North London clubs have faced their fair share of problems pre-season but they will improve. Chelsea currently look a step above the pair but that doesn’t mean that will necessarily transcend into some form of title push or even remain the case, as the season continues.
An away win against Wigan came before conceding two goals to the promoted Reading, in a game that they were very lucky to come out with three points. They may have had their fair share of chances, but the truth is that at 2-2, they shouldn’t have beaten the Royals. Chelsea’s third came courtesy of a shocker of an offside decision and the fourth was a sucker punch as Reading sent Adam Federici up for a corner. They might have made a more impressive start than the two Manchester clubs, but they still have to improve.
The 3-2 Community Shield defeat to Manchester City suggested that whilst Chelsea didn’t necessarily get the rub of the green, they have some work to do before they start harbouring title hopes. Branislav Ivanovic’s dismissal harmed the game as a contest, but Chelsea were outplayed and outmanoeuvred for large periods of the game. If Manchester City represent a well-oiled machine, then Chelsea resembled something of a cautious prototype – full of promise, but not quite ready to fire on the production line.
The next few weeks will tell us all we need to know about just how much promise Roberto Di Matteo’s prototype is showing. Friday’s Uefa Super Cup fixture against Atletico Madird will offer a tough examination, but perhaps the first, big test in the league will come away to Arsenal at the end of the month. You get the feeling that they’re perhaps only one injury to Fernando Torres or Eden Hazard away from a spot of bother. But if they continue their current level of performance, it’ll be exciting to see what this season has in store for them.
Chelsea haven’t committed a crime, but they’re certainly innocent until proven guilty. As opposed to waiting for the team to slip up, perhaps some should appreciate their current level of output for what it is today.
How do you rate Chelsea’s current form? More than just a promising start? Or are some reading too much into their current Premier League form? Tell me what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me all your views.