While a slightly nervy 1-0 win against a promoted side at home would not normally be seen as a massive result for most teams that had won the Championship the previous season, one got the feeling that a corner just might have been by Chelsea on Saturday with their win against Norwich at Stamford Bridge.
It’s not that the performance was quite back to their flowing best of the early months of last season, or quite as gritty and dogged as the title run-in, when they seemed to specialise in grinding out results left right and centre.
It’s not that they tore Norwich apart with fast, dynamic passing and flattened the Canaries in a morale boosting demolition job. However, the simple facts remain that Mourinho specialises in big results like this when his team needs them most, and with reports circulating in various places that a run of three or four bad results would leave him perilously close to the exit door, there is no doubt that Chelsea really needed this result.
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What’s more, this game was one of the first this season when it seemed like various key pieces in their all-conquering jigsaw from last year were finally getting back into something approaching top form.
Diego Costa scored and got into good positions to net several more.
His finishing was awry on those other occasions, but as all good strikers know, the time to worry is when you’re not even getting those sort of chances.
His goal was well-taken, a neat curled finish into the corner – the sort of goal top players make look much easier than it is.
The nature of the assist was pleasing as well – especially as it came from Fabregas, a player who so far this season has looked a mere shadow of the man who completely dominated the midfield for much of last year. It was a perfectly placed, delicate ball over the top, probably not one of the most difficult passes he’s ever made, but it would have still been very pleasing for Chelsea fans to see two of their key players from last year beginning to link up again to such good effect.
The defence also looked reasonably solid once more, which I suspect will please Mourinho more than any other aspect of their victory. So far this season the back line has looked as watertight as a leaky old colander, but in this performance they showed grit, resilience and the essential basics of back four play. There is still a lot of work to be done with Terry, Cahill and Ivanovic etc, but Saturday was a good start.
Granted, it may not have been against one of the more offensively dangerous teams in the division, but frankly clean sheets have been so hard to come by for Mourinho that he’ll take the first one that arrives, whoever the opponents are.
The sense of the season finally starting at Stamford Bridge is exacerbated by the fact that Mourinho is now back from his stadium ban, and that the stop-start nature of the opening months has passed; there are no more international breaks until March and Mourinho will attempt to make this as much of a fresh start for his side as possible.
The result on Saturday, albeit in a very low-key way, could have provided just that.