Chelsea began their season strong tonight, against one of the promoted sides, Burnley, winning the game 3-1. It was an emphatic beginning to a campaign that many believe will lead to more silverware coming to Stamford Bridge, sending a strong statement to title contenders that Chelsea mean business.
Although Burnley got ahead in the game, through Scott Arfield in the 14th minute, the Blues responded quickly. Diego Costa put away his first Chelsea goal in the 17th minute to even the scoreline. It was a poachers goal, off a Branislav Ivanovic cross that rebounded off the post; the Burnley back line responded slowly, and Costa pounced, burying the ball into the net.
Chelsea took the lead in the 21st minute through the best goal of the opening weekend. Eden Hazard picked up the ball in the middle of the field, and dribbled, first left, then right, across the face of the box, before laying it off to Ivanovic. Andre Schurrle began to make a run down the right side of the box, just in front of the Serbian right back, but Ivanovic chose to hit it to Cesc Fabergas, who was in front of goal, 25 yards out. Schurrle continued his run in behind the defense, and Fabergas found him on the edge of the 6 yard area with a sublime, half-volley pass. Schurrle didn’t have to do much to put the ball away, and found the bottom corner with easy.
The Blues’ third came from Ivanovic, who had a great game in his own right. Fabergas hit a corner, in the 34th minute, in the center of the box, where Ivanovic, who was virtually unmarked, volleyed the ball into the net. The Serbian was something of a surprise pick, with many people expecting new signing Filipe Luis to start at left back, and Cesar Azpilicueta to move to right back. But Ivanovic justified his start by setting up both Costa and Schurrle’s goals, and scoring one himself.
- Cesc Fabergas: The Spaniard is the player who will drive Chelsea’s campaign. He showed that tonight. Even when he isn’t showing up in the box at the right time to put the ball away (much like Frank Lampard, the man he replaced, did), he will be creating, supplying passes like the one that set up Schurrle.His set piece ability will also be greatly valued, with Lampard, who supplied both corners and free kicks for the Blues, gone. Other players in Chelsea’s side (Oscar, Hazard, Willian) have been accused on being inconsistent, and indeed last season that incosistency killed Chelsea. But Fabergas will go out week in and week out, and give great and good performances. His consistency will keep Chelsea on track, and will make sure Chelsea don’t lose to small teams, like Burnley.
- Jose Mourinho: A lot of talk before the season was focused on Louis Van Gaal’s decisive character, and how it will benefit United. Yet, it was Mourinho who showed he had the “guts” to make big decisions. All summer the debate has raged over who should be Chelsea’s keeper, new boy Thibaut Courtois, or established star Petr Cech. It was a tough decision; Cech had anchored the team through so many great years, but then again, Courtois is ten years younger, and probably better. Mourinho made the right, although tougher, decision today; he started Courtois. Although Cech is beloved, the time has come for a new goalkeeper to be moved in. However, Jose also showed that he doesn’t just love change. Everyone assumed that he would start Felipe Luis at left back, and leave Branislav Ivanovic on the bench. It would make sense; Luis was great La Liga last season with Atletico Madrid, winning the title, and making it to the Champions League final. But Mourinho thought better of breaking up the back line that was the best in the league last season, and kept Ivanovic on the field. It payed off, as we have already seen, with Ivanovic setting up two goals, and scoring the third.
Mourinho and Fabergas are the two keys to Chelsea’s season. If both are on their games, tactically and physically (respectively), then the rest of the team, including Costa, Hazard and Oscar, will be raised to a new level. Chelsea have the talent, depth and coaching to make deep runs in all competitions, and challenge for silverware on multiple fronts. Jose and Cesc will be key to this, and they came through tonight.