·2 October 2023
·2 October 2023
It’s all been calmness and serenity at Chelsea despite their torrid start to the season, so they say. They’ve ‘looked beyond results’ and are instead ‘paying attention to key performance indicators’ – xG and the like.
‘There is comfort in the numbers’ for the owners, and to some extent, for the fans. But many of these Chelsea supporters know little apart from winning. That insatiable desire for glory cost Graham Potter his job, after he had been given votes of confidence similar to those now being afforded to Mauricio Pochettino before the fans turned and the owners were left with no option but to get rid of him.
As long as the win alluded them, at some stage the fans would enforce a ‘panic’, no matter how staunchly the owners resisted or denied it. With an eye on a fixture list that sees Chelsea play six of the top eight from last season after Burnley on Saturday, that panic may have started next weekend.
It was as though the footballing Gods, who have been reveling in the Chelsea woes, suddenly smiled on the team as a whole, and saved the broadest grins for the players they had been f***ing over the most in the practical joke their rivals have so enjoyed until now.
Mudryk, whose positive contributions in a Chelsea shirt have been outweighed hugely by miscontrols, mishits and futile dribbles, scored a goal, seconds before Armando Broja – a Chelses striker, no less – doubled their lead on his first start for 11 months.
Moises Caicedo showed for the first time in a Chelsea shirt why he became the record British transfer, and he dovetailed beautifully with Enzo Fernandez, the man he pipped to top spot, and Conor Gallagher, in a midfield trio that was far more fluid than we’ve seen in recent weeks, and was all the better for it.
Gallagher, by the way, was utterly brilliant, on and off the ball. It was a true captain’s performance.
Underlining the need for their respective goals, Mudryk and Broja both blazed shots over the bar in favourable positions before scoring. Broja’s goal featured a huge slice of luck, with Ream following up his pass straight to the feet of Cole Palmer with an attempted clearance which cannoned off the striker and into the net.
Palmer did well to close the defender down and read his intentions – which he seems to have quite the knack of – and ‘they all count’, as they say. But if goals were more than binary, Mudryk’s would be valued significantly higher than most.
Chelsea beat the press, Caicedo drifted a ball out wide for Levi Colwill, who clipped a pass over Issa Diop (no mean feat) for Mudryk to chest the ball down with one touch and finish through Bernd Leno’s legs with the other. He looked as good a finisher as Frank Lampard claimed him to be – to many a raised eyebrow – in his pre-match analysis.
The relief – tinged with embarrassment in Broja’s case – was evident on the faces of both Mudyrk and Broja, who have faced very different frustrations in 2023, but needed those goals just as much as each other.
‘This result’s been coming,’ was the line on commentary – a fair point when you consider Chelsea have bettered their opponents in every game this season according to xG – but while it’s perfectly possible that the goals themselves provide gloss to blinker us slightly, it also feels like their best result of the season was a consequence of their best performance, certainly away from home, this season.
They got their goals, looked threatening besides and defended comfortably in the second half.
It would be rash to suggest this is a turning point for Chelsea, particularly given those mean-spirited Gods forced Mudryk off through what we assume is an injury at half-time, then struck down both Broja and Caicedo with what Pochettino will be hoping is little more than cramp in the second half.
But there is some momentum there after the win over Brighton in the Carabao Cup, and while the tender age of the team has worked against Pochettino so far, it feels like that will be a positive now they’ve got a couple of wins under their belts, with confidence perhaps growing more quickly in those without so much experience.
It’s a long way to Champions League qualification, which we’re still told is the aim of the club this season, and competition for what will likely be a top five this term is stiff. But this game at least gives Chelsea fans the opportunity to claim the future is indeed bright, without the deafening scoffs of rivals wondering just what they’ve spent £1bn on.