Almost a year on from Frank Lampard’s chaotic opening day drama against Brighton, Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League winning Blues cruised to a dominant yet steady first three points of the 2021/22 season after beating Crystal Palace 3-0 at an expectant Stamford Bridge.
With the squad newly bolstered by Italy’s greatest and strongest firepower, even a weakened Chelsea team were able to comfortably walk over Patrick Viera’s inexperienced, new-look Eagles.
One year after Lampard led Chelsea huffing and puffing from the Amex after a Reece James thunderbolt and the signs of turbulence from Kepa that would mare the start of the season, Chelsea have transformed and here’s five things we learnt on a sunny serenade at SW6.
Crystal Palace swept aside by opening day dominance
On paper this was the sort of fixture that might have scared a few fans. The noisy Crystal Palace ultras making a journey through London to spoil the cheerful competitive showing off of the two European trophies which lay at Stamford Bridge, guarded by Tuchel’s roaring, yet calm, Chelsea lions.
It was a banana skin game, the new kid on the block (Viera possessing a much larger pot of Premier League and general football pedigree over the past 20 years than his new managerial counterpart) against the one they all fear. Tuchel’s Chelsea transformation is firing daggers at those that wish to challenge for the league this season, the German clockwork tank preparing itself to suffocate those in front of him.
Palace possess attacking weapons which will likely cause their own free flowing stir this season, it won’t be an easy ride for Viera this season, but it’s an exciting time at the club, similar to when Lampard was welcomed back by Roman Abramovich.
The league can’t be won, or lost, on opening day, but messages can be made. Though Chelsea aren’t league favourites like Jose Mourinho’s Spanish contingent were in 2014/15, Tuchel’s crisp dispatching of Palace on a boisterous opening day reunion of supporters feels like a message. It isn’t so much being whispered around the classroom by giddy kids that think they have a chance, it’s being paraded in front of 19 other teams like a presidential inauguration.
If we didn’t know already, Lukaku will score goals in this team
Can you learn something about a player that didn’t play in a game? Yes. Although, this probably hasn’t just been learnt from beating Crystal Palace. Romelu Lukaku will score a lot of goals for Chelsea.
The Blues may have needed a typically boastful and comedic Marcos Alonso freekick to open the scoring, but the build up, patience and speed of ball movement on the first day of the season was frightening…for the rest of the league.
There are obvious ball carriers in the side, fearless players that will turn, jinx and jag away from midfielders with the ball on a string. Then, there’s an unpredictable predictability that one of the forward line will create. Be it Kai Havertz’s ghosting runs, Mason Mount’s Lampard-like arrival or Christian Pulisic’s bursts of unrivalled technical energy, there are chances aplenty. Now there’s a man to finish the job.
Not that Timo Werner’s unrelenting sprints in behind a wilting Palace defence didn’t help, but the nature of a pure goalscorer has been missing from Chelsea for sometime. They now have the intelligent attacking movement of Werner, the power of Didier Drogba, the bullish tones of Diego Costa and the motivation, narrative or sheer desire to achieve time round.
Lukaku’s debut might not have happened yet, but Chelsea’s commandeering season start can’t make you think about just how strong they might yet still become.
Crystal Palace feel full force of not full strength Blues
If Lukaku’s second debut is exciting, then throw in the addition of a stronger right wingback, left wingback and perhaps the most unique midfielder of a generation. Although the team that played against Crystal Palace was perhaps the sharpest, it probably isn’t the strongest. Not when compared to the undroppable rotation players that are now in the constant reach of Tuchel.
It would be a managers dream to be able to pluck up any concoction of the current batch of Chelsea ingredients, and still be confident of creating a winning, blue tinged remedy. It is also the strength in depth that Chelsea have that can make fans more confident in the appearances of N’Golo Kante when he is deemed necessary. The Frenchman is a cheat code in midfield, a glitch in the Matrix and a key component of controlling all the competitions that Chelsea will enter this season.
Add these ‘extra pieces’ into the melting cauldron and Tuchel’s magic touch might just turn out to magic. With the coaches’ desire to adapt match-by-match and to perfect multiple winning formulae, having different options is key.
Alonso Vs Chilwell
Not just because he scored a very good goal, the first of the season, but Marcos Alonso was very good. He’s started the season in the form that he will so often find at periods during a campaign, like the best attacking wingback there is.
This has worked well for Tuchel. With Ben Chilwell not playing a minute of football since the Champions League final he is hardly in shape to start the season for the demanding juggernaut managed by Tuchel. We have also seen that due to the intensity of Tuchel’s Chelsea side, rotations and match ups are taken into account, meaning that being able to come in and out of the side are both key parts to being a successful squad player under the German.
Chilwell proved last season that he is capable of upping his levels and forcing a way into the best XI for any given match, the quick start to this season from Alonso will likely just spur him on to take his chance when it comes.
Either way, with common uncertainty around Alonso as there usually is, having the Spaniard as an asset rather than a disrupting factor is always valuable, if he can help push Chilwell on then it’s a good sign for the whole squad. Competitiveness is rife for the starting spots and Alonso’s Super Cup and season opening form is a delight for himself, manager and fans alike.
Oh, and who doesn’t love a free kick.
Good to be back at the Bridge
There have been moments since the Champions League final in Porto that were treated with celebration. Deservedly so. Everyone deserves joy and with each step we take towards whatever classes as normality anymore, a new small celebration is upon us.
Finally, it seems, that celebration can continue on. An (almost) full Stamford Bridge was there to witness the Champions League and Super Cup on show. Without the rail seating disaster, it was a glorious day at Stamford Bridge.
Chanting, cheering, rubbing it in to the away fans that have to journey home without any gloating points, drinking in the sunshine and witnessing Tuchel’s army in the Premier League, knowing that the season has potential to be a famous one.
It’s early doors, but Chelsea fans would be excused if they allowed themselves to dream once more.
Written and edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
Follow us on: