At the risk of sounding cliche, yes, it is early. Very early. We’re only seven weeks into the 38-week campaign, after all. But, with several convincing performances in the rear view mirror and a draw with perhaps the only team that could challenge them as their only “blemish” thus far, it appears Chelsea is a class above the rest and the race for the title might be a boring one.
While sitting on my couch on Sunday morning watching the Chelsea/Arsenal match unfold, I happened to glance over at Twitter only to see a tweet (by who I don’t remember) that stated that [they] wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea went the entire Premier League season without losing a match. While I don’t know that they’ll quite join the ranks of the 1880 Preston North End club or Arsenal from the 2003-2004 season as the “Invincibles”, I do struggle to see a club that could dethrone the West Londoners from their perch.
And it was in watching that match that this notion was even more furthered.
Though the 2-0 scoreline may not necessarily have shown it, the Blues thoroughly dispatched of the Gunners on Sunday and really went the entire 90-plus minutes without being troubled. In fact, the match, and more specifically three brief moments of individual brilliance, left us with some indelible images that served as a microcosm of why the club has 19 of a possible 21 points, and why they could very well end up hoisting some serious hardware come season’s end.
The first of such moments came in the 26th minute, when Eden Hazard slalomed past two defenders – and almost a third – before Laurent Koscielny brought the on-rushing midfielder down inside the area, fouling Hazard and leaving him with a penalty kick which he easily converted.
Hazard completed an astounding five of six take on’s (attempted dribble past an opponent) against Arsenal, bringing his Premier League-leading total to 36, with the next closest player having only 21 (Erik Lamela, Tottenham). This clearly demonstrates Hazard’s innate dribbling ability, and although I feel Angel Di Maria might be entering the discussion, certainly a case can be made for the Chelsea man to be the most dangerous player in the Premier League with the ball at his feet.
For fantasy players it was glaring reminder of why you either don’t take the talented Blegian out of your lineup, or, if you play daily’s, to spend the money in order to have him in your lineup. Because while his goal on Sunday was only his second of the season, and up until then had been in a slight slump as far as counting stats go, he’s simply to talented to remove from your first XI.
Our next two examples came almost simultaneously when the league’s leading scorer, Diego Costa, after seeing where the league’s leader in assists, Cesc Fabregas, had picked up the ball, immediately went on a full sprint to beat the aforementioned Koscielny and Per Mertesacker to the end of a gorgeous ball played by Fabregas.
Costa then, ever so calmly, simply chipped the oncoming Wojciech Szczesny for his ninth goal of the season, giving him a four-goal cushion on Leicester City’s Leonardo Ulloa and West Brom’s Saido Berahino, and sealed three points for Chelsea.
The pass by Fabregas and the run to set up the goal by Costa were both a thing of beauty in their own right, and demonstrated just how devastating each player has been in their roles with their new clubs. Fabregas has been a revelation in central midfield – something Chelsea was lacking last year. His 90% pass accuracy is tied for tops in the league with Manchester City’s Yaya Touré, and his 500 completed passes is second only to Toure’s 541. As I’ve already stated, he sits atop the league with seven assists, but he also leads in chances created with 22.
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For Costa it’s easy to measure his contribution to José Mourinho’s side: the goals. And that’s precisely why he was brought over from Atletico Madrid during the summer. But beyond the goals, he’s been an absolute menace in and around the box. His shooting, which was already thought to be impressive after last season with Atletico, might just be reaching an other-worldly level as he’s put 16 shots on target out of 19 shots. His 9 goals from 19 shots gives him an absurd 47.4% conversion rate.
Three players. Three individual moments of brilliance. All three serve as merely a snippet of just how valuable each player has been to Chelsea this season. A season that is still yet in it’s infant stages.
The Blues have a daunting task ahead of them, and surely they have aspirations of European success as well, but if the play of Hazard, Fabreagas, and Costa (not to mention a stout defense) are any indication of how the campaign will play out, then it looks as if no one will be able to stand in their way.
All data and charts provided by Squawka.com