Does Chelsea's Undefeated Start Really Mean Anything?
A lot has been made of Chelsea's thrashing of their first three opponents, but should anyone have expected anything different? The three wins have come against a newly promoted West Brom side, a Wigan Athletic team that lost 0-4 to Blackpool, and a struggling Stoke City. The outcomes of these games were never going to be determined by the opposition, but merely by the willingness of the Blues' players to exert their dominance.
Quality of Competition
The only glimpse of Carlo Ancelotti's team against quality competition came in their 3-1 loss at the hands of Manchester United in the Community Shield. While it was technically an exhibition game and striker Didier Drogba did not start, the Red Devils clearly outplayed the Blues. Against Chelsea's best defensive line, United managed three goals while starting the little used Michael Owen and only playing Wayne Rooney half the game.
It will be almost a month until Chelsea faces a true regular season test when they travel to play free spending Manchester City. The next week they will face the Gunners at Stamford Bridge, followed by a trip to Villa Park. In the meantime, two more easy victories against West Ham and Blackpool should be expected.
UEFA Champions League
Chelsea has yet to start UEFA Champions League play. How will the team respond when they have to play Spartak Moscow mid-week before their match against Liverpool? The added pressures and traveling demands of Champions League can have significant effects on teams.
Tottenham showed in their loss to Wigan the potential effects on Premier League performance. Spurs had to win to advance after dropping their first game to Young Boys. They were forced to exert significant effort mid-week and could not risk resting starters. As a result, they came out flat against Wigan and dropped three points in a game that should have been an easy victory.
Frank Lampard's Injury
The Blues may experience some adversity as Frank Lampard is scheduled for surgery to repair a hernia sustained in the win over Stoke City. He is expected back in time for the West Ham game. If complications arise and Lampard misses extended time, the Blues will have little excuse for any drop in performance as he will be replaced by Salomon Kalou. The Ivory Coast international has already scored twice while averaging less than 20 minutes a match.
This is not meant to diminish the outstanding quality Chelsea has shown, only to say they should be expected to have full points when they travel to Manchester City on September 25th. Didier Drogba has been incredible with four goals and three assists, while fellow striker Nicholas Anelka has two goals and an assist. The Blues' defense has been outstanding, not allowing a goal and only requiring Petr Cech to make four saves.
Chelsea has shown themselves to be focused and determined. While their competition has been subpar, they have resisted the urge to drop points as Manchester United did against Fulham. Instead they have dominated like true champions should.
They should be favored to repeat as Premier League Champions, but until they have shown their quality against top flight competition, started their Champions League run, and dealt with injury concerns there should not be too much made of their fast start. It was expected for the defending champions. Right?
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