Despite what looked to be a precarious situation for Antonio Conte and the West London Blues, Chelsea have grown into their early season form over the opening five games of the domestic and European season.
The cracks probed after an opening day loss to Burnley left the Premier League champions, who were so imperious last term, feeling vulnerable.
Discord with their powerful goalscorer Diego Costa, defensive rock Gary Cahill dismissed to the stands and electric talisman Eden Hazard struggling for fitness all seemed to be pointing to a long season.
Things were also amiss in the transfer market, as strangely, a side who have won two out of the last three league titles, back in with the European elite, could not get their transfer targets over the line.
But underestimate the Italian manager at your peril. He is not a man to get on the wrong side of, as even the villain Costa has found out.
With much of the title talk focused on the Manchester clubs, as United are finally back to fighting form and City off to their usual silky August performances, Conte’s men have flown under the radar, producing hard-fought wins over Spurs, Everton and Leicester. Not straightforward opposition but dealt with firmly to move up to third place in a classic granite-like Chelsea style.
Largely, the squad remains unchanged from the championship winning side, with any new faces slotting in comfortably. Alvaro Moratta looks confident and assured leading the line, providing some power with a deft touch. Fabregas looks back to some more regular form after and in-out season last year and Willian is a match winner that can cover for Hazard. You have to think he will be disappointed if he drops to the bench upon the Belgian’s return.
Defensive switches have been adept after the suspension of Gary Cahill, and Davide Zappacosta sparkled on full debut, helping secure a 6-0 win over Qarabag.
The loss of Nemanja Matic continues as an area that needs finessing over the coming weeks, and a large piece of the jigsaw could be slotting Danny Drinkwater’s ball retention back in with N’Golo Kante’s Duracell energy.
Not too many are tipping the Premier League trophy to remain at Stamford Bridge for another year now that the extra stress of Champions League football is on the horizon. Squad depth is still to be fully tested but the form is building slowly. A test again Arsenal is always a good measure of confidence and crunch encounters with Atletico Madrid and Roma will really provide the evidence of how Chelsea shape up for the bulk of the season.