Fan View: 'Chelsea are happy to fly under the radar'

9th Sep 2018

Four games. Four wins. 10 goals. One victory over a top-six rival. No, those are not the statistics of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool who have, along with Javi Gracia’s Watford, picked up most of the plaudits in the press during the opening four games of the season.

Daily Football Tips

Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea have quietly got down to business and secured maximum points whilst undertaking a radical change in style, with possession and attack-minded football the preferred method of play for Sarri compared with the defensive, counter-attacking style of his two predecessors, Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea’s start so far has been efficient rather than spectacular. Victories over Huddersfield and Bournemouth will have been expected, however, the wins against Arsenal and Newcastle have provided a real sense of optimism.

Beating a top-six rival is any coach’s first big hurdle when they take a top job and Sarri accomplished this at the first time of asking with a particularly impressive second half, where his side asserted a total domination of possession and territory which culminated in a richly deserved winner. 

Chelsea’s style of play is still under transformation, a stage that many would call a ‘transition period’ as we go from 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3 shape. More than the change in system is the change in approach and the arrival of Jorginho embodies this.

The playmaker arrived from Napoli to become an integral part of the Chelsea midfield as the man who conducts play and organises the team in the attacking phase. Not only is the Italy star an orchestrator in possession, his leadership and organisational qualities have also been impressive in a team that - for all its quality - could be seen as lacking a genuine leader.

Jorginho is Sarri’s leader on the pitch and he, more than any other player, is assisting the transition in style from a defensive focus to one that aims to entertain. 

Players such as Pedro, Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger have excelled in the opening fixtures and look to be enjoying the changes imposed on them by Sarri. However, the one man who sticks out above any other at the club is, and has done for years now, is our brilliant Belgian.

Eden Hazard already looks to be revelling in a more attack-minded system with a coach who has almost released him of any defensive responsibilities. Two goals and two assists in just 223 minutes are evidence that he has started the season in cracking form.

I think Sarri has been taken aback by the Belgium captain and his raw ability. It’s doubtless to say that, despite an improved attacking structure which should take some of the creative burden away from Hazard, any system with him in it should aim to maximise his overwhelming talents. 

While Hazard has excelled along with Pedro, Rudiger and Alonso, one player under scrutiny for a couple of sub-par performances is David Luiz. Against Newcastle and Bournemouth, Luiz looked the most suspect of the back-four and, after eight months of being sidelined by Conte, the charismatic Brazilian appears a yard slower than ever with the usual 'brainfarts' that overshadow his game still prominent.

While Luiz’s character and general mentality is excellent, it remains to be seen whether his overall defending improves and with both Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu pushing hard to start, his place in the side could come under threat in the weeks to come.

The season has started brightly with four good wins in four games but September poses a multitude of different tests with games coming thick and fast. Next up in the league is the visit of Cardiff, followed by a trip across London to West Ham and a mouth-watering game at home to Liverpool. I will be disappointed if we don’t win the next two league games, given that Cardiff and West Ham have endured difficult starts to the season.

The Europa League also begins in September with a trip to PAOK Salonika but this competition is likely to play second fiddle to the league, certainly if our good league form continues. It is a fantastic competition in the latter stages, however, the early group games represent the perfect opportunity to give players such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek the opportunity to flourish and stamp their authority in the squad.

The likes of Hazard, Jorginho, Rudiger and N'Golo Kante are simply not required in the Europa League until the business end of the tournament and this could give us a real advantage in the league if they keep playing just once a week. 

All-in-all, it’s been a fantastic start to the season for Chelsea, there are no two ways about it. Forget defensive criticisms, we have controlled the vast majority of the four victories with only one manic 20-minute period against Arsenal proving problematic.

The talk of Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal has dominated the media in the opening weeks of the season for differing reasons but this has allowed Sarri and Chelsea to go decidedly under the radar in the early stages of the campaign.

It is, of course, early days. I’m not for one minute believing we will win the title, however, we are not as far away from the alleged front-runners as people would have you believe. It could be an exciting season, and I cannot wait for September’s fixtures to begin. Bring it on.

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