From the 28th of October to the 24th of November, Chelsea played six games. They emerged with a perfect record of six wins, scoring 18 goals and conceding just two along the way.
After that, there was plenty of praise, but also questions about the quality of the opposition – yes the Blues could destroy Krasnodar and Burnley, but how would they cope against better teams?
Those doubts were reasonable, and even the most loyal Chelsea fan knew that the majority of those matches had seen Frank Lampard’s team face sides who just don’t have the resources to handle the sheer firepower they were up against. There was an understandable reluctance to pour too much praise on an improved defence which was barely challenged for a month.
That’s why yesterday’s game against Tottenham was an important test for a club looking to prove they’ve made material improvements on last season. Taking on a team which has some of the league’s best attackers, a great manager and strong form of its own would provide a better yardstick to judge Chelsea’s progress since our summer spending.
As it turned out, the game was a predictably dull one, the points shared after a 0-0 draw.
Looking at Betcompare before the game, it was clearly going to be a tight affair – although given the reaction in the aftermath, one would think that the Blues had been up against another relegation battling punching-bag team.
Social media was rife with moans about when the manager had made his substitutions, the choices he’d made in the lineup to start, and his tactics in getting the ball into the net. These didn’t come from rival fans or pundits either, these were Chelsea supporters who hadn’t been happy with their side smashing a string of weaker teams, and still weren’t content when they outplayed a far better one either.
Of course it wasn’t a perfect performance, but it’s hard to see where the negative feelings are coming from. Chelsea played a smart game which they never looked like losing. They dominated possession for large parts against a direct rival, created more chances, shut down the most potent attacking combination in the league totally, and could have won the game both early (though a disallowed Timo Werner strike) and late (when Olivier Giroud shot tamely into Hugo Lloris after a defensive mix-up).
Within the space of a month, Lampard’s team have shown defensive quality and attacking ruthlessness in swatting away weaker teams; and then an intelligent, game-managing savvy side in getting a creditable draw against Jose Mourinho’s table-topping Tottenham.
Both of those tasks proved too much for this team week after week last season, and it’s amazing to see how quickly that fact has been forgotten.
Of course Lampard is aiming higher than being happy with a draw at home, even one against a very good side. But if you can’t enjoy where this team is at now because of the success it had at its peak 15 years ago, then you’re going to struggle to extract much joy from football ever again.
Our core of youth team players has been complemented by world class signings. A club legend is manager. We’re battering small teams and playing smart against the bigger ones. The defence looks tighter than it has for years, and we’ve got a deep squad with goals all over the pitch.
If you can’t see the positives, there might be no helping you.