Chelsea: How Much Did Blues Look Like Champions in Burnley Victory?

Callum Mackenzie@callumlarrContributor IIIAugust 20, 2014

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18:  Chelsea players appeal to Referee Michael Oliver, as he books Diego Costa of Chelsea for diving during the Barclays Premier League match between Burnley and Chelsea at Turf Moor on August 18, 2014 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

On Monday night, Chelsea opened their 2014/15 Premier League season with a victory against Burnley, and since that 3-1 triumph at Turf Moor, discussion and debate has been in full flow surrounding an electric team performance that ran out winners in Lancashire.

The Blues displayed great fluidity in overawing the Clarets, despite the hosts taking first blood with a clinical, if unexpected, Scott Arfield strike.  Yet that was as good as it got for Burnley on their return to the top flight.

Diego Costa repaid a fraction of his £32 million transfer fee with an instant return within three minutes of his side going down, with an opportunistic pounce of a 10-yard drive.  After that, the visitors solidified.

Having overcome their deficit, the Blues killed the game off before half-time as Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic added to the Londoners' tally, and while they didn't pile any more efforts past Tom Heaton in Burnley's goal, their attacking nous and intricate midfield play, primarily dictated by new man Cesc Fabregas, earned scores of admirers and left Sean Dyche and his side stunned.

Obviously it's the first game of the season, and so it's far too early to make sweeping judgments about this Chelsea side or how much they can achieve in this, the second season of Jose Mourinho's second spell as manager.  Add in that it was a victory against perhaps the weakest Premier League side and sweeping judgments become even less suitable.

Yet we can still infer a lot from the shape of Mourinho's team—how they lined up, the personnel in the starting XI and on the substitute's bench, and how they reacted to circumstances playing out of their favour.

Speaking of personnel, Mourinho spoke to BBC Sport after the match and praised Fabregas as a "maestro," and playing alongside Nemanja Matic, the former Barcelona man found chemistry with his new teammates incredibly easy to come by.  The Spaniard's visionary passing capabilities make him the ideal man to centre your team's philosophy around—it's no surprise that when Arsene Wenger utilised Fabregas as the fulcrum of his side when the 27-year old was a Gunner, Arsenal's play saw a marked improvement.

Mourinho seems to know this, and by employing him alongside Matic, an unfashionable yet unquestionably imposing presence as a defensively minded midfielder, he has found a look which will unsettle every team in the league.

Moving further up the pitch in Mourinho's newest squad, Costa headlines a strikeforce which, at first glance, appears to have more bite in it than last year's iteration.  The Spain international was full of power and presence in Lancashire, and while he only racked up the solitary goal, he proved himself a nuisance throughout his first 90 minutes of Premier League action. 

Schurrle proved at times last season and over the summer in Brazil that given service, he can finish from a variety of angles and make himself a menace in every scenario—with Fabregas providing just that on Monday, the German is starting to craft himself a real repute as a goalscorer from midfield.

Finishing off with returning Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, providing his quality can be unlocked, the Blues should have attacking gusto and goalscoring experience in spades.

Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic provided the perfect balance of attacking nous and defensive physicality on Monday.
Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic provided the perfect balance of attacking nous and defensive physicality on Monday.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The team's greatest strength last season was its defence, and in recognition of this, Mourinho started a back four that saw plenty of football last season.  Ivanovic was joined by John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, and aside from Arfield's goal they were rarely troubled.  Resultant of this, there was no debut for Filipe Luis, formerly of Atletico Madrid; given the incumbent defence's form, he might struggle to oust one of them for regular football for some time.

This is all without discussing the performance of Thibaut Courtois, who made the majority of the pre-match hype when Mourinho announced his 22-year old Belgian would start ahead of Chelsea's cornerstone for the last decade, Petr Cech.

After conceding Burnley's goal, the Belgian started to gain confidence and looked assured between the sticks.  It's too early to judge whether he'll retain the No. 1 role for the remainder of the season—indeed, even Mourinho is unsure whether Courtois will remain in goal permanently.

Next for Chelsea is Saturday's home opener as they face another newly promoted side in Leicester City, before the first real test of the new campaign sees another jaunt to the north west, to Goodison Park and Roberto Martinez's Everton the following Saturday.

Should they continue the fine form they showed signs of at Turf Moor, they will have little problem in dealing with the Foxes at Stamford Bridge, although the Everton game should be a true test of what Mourinho and his side are capable of.  Should they come out of that game unscathed, we'll be in a much better place to judge them as potential champions.

It can't be denied though—Chelsea have kicked off their new season in some style.

What did you make of Chelsea's win at Turf Moor? Let me know with a comment below, or alternatively check in with me on Twitter.


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