The European champions had approached the season in high spirits, if not exactly confident of a tilt for the championship. The heady days of last season’s success had allowed not only coach Roberto Di Matteo the chance to stay at Stamford Bridge, but then to undertake a summer spending spree that looked to revolutionalise Chelsea’s entire footballing ethos.
With Nicolas Anelka and Alex already departed, out went the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Michael Essien, while Florent Malouda was forced to train with the club’s Under-21 squad. Make no mistake, this was the purge of the older guard that Andre Villas-Boas had tried to initiate so unsuccessfully at the beginning of last season.
The slow, mechanical but effective football was to be replaced now the holy grail that is the Champions League was finally in Roman Abramovich’s grasp. Now was the time to pursue what the owner had always wanted for his side, a Barcelona in Blue.
Thus, the technical talents of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta all arrived at Stamford Bridge over the course of the summer. The marquee purchases of Hazard and Oscar in particular were aimed at introducing a football not seen at Chelsea since the Russian oligarch took ownership.
However, the process was supposed to be a slow one. Even Abramovich was said to not be expecting too much this season, although Champions League qualification remains a pre-requisite.
However, the Blues have started the season like a train and have currently only dropped two points so far this season, in a dour goalless draw at QPR. Cynics have pointed to the relative ease of their fixture list but after their impressive and convincing victory at Tottenham to add their win at the Emirates earlier this season, the Blues have been a cut above the rest so far this season.
Hazard and Juan Mata in particular have been sensational while Oscar, after a slow start, has emerged as a first-team regular of remarkable poise and composure. Add some other key players into the pot: Lampard, Terry, Torres and Cahill just to name a few; and it would seem that the Blues are an unstoppable force.
There are some key tests on the horizon of course, in particular clashes against the two Manchester clubs but judging by their current form, it is Chelsea who will be going into those games as favourites rather than the underdogs they may have been before the season started.
It looks like Chelsea are a safe bet to top the table for the first half of this year’s Premier League. Check out any of the sports betting sites and you can put your money on the odds being in Chelsea’s favour – maybe a little too much so at the moment.