Dubai: We have all been talking about Chelsea’s title credentials mainly due to the arrival £97.5 million striker Romelu Lukaku. He got off to a fine second debut for the Blues by scoring against Arsenal after only 15 minutes and there is no doubt that he will plunder in a hatful of goals.
As much of an attacking threat Chelsea will be this season, we saw another side to Thomas Tuchel’s men yesterday against Liverpool at Anfield and perhaps it’s a far more telling reason as to why they feel they can snatch Man City’s crown away from them – it’s their defense.
It was a masterclass display from the visitors who were reduced to 10-men following Reece James’ red card late on in the first half. Many felt that the Reds would go on to make Chelsea pay with their numerical advantage in the second 45. But they hadn’t counted on the steely determination that Tuchel has instilled into his players.
The way they have developed under the German coach following the sacking of the abysmal Frank Lampard is incredible. Tuchel has already won them the Champions League and clearly he has his eyes on the Premier League and this latest battling display suggests the trophy may well be heading back to Stamford Bridge.
It was a frantic second half as Liverpool tried everything to get in front and take all three points but they were thwarted by the brilliant Edouard Mendy in goal on the rare occasions they did get past the abrasive Rudiger and veteran Thiago Silva, 37 - in September - at the back.
I have never seen Jurgen Klopp so animated – the frustration felt by the Liverpool coach was clear for all to see and the Chelsea players seemed to thrive seeing him so annoyed on the touchline as they dug deep and defended resolutely. Chelsea had taken the lead in the first half with a looping Kai Havertz header but then following James’ handball on the line he shown a red card and Mo Salah emphatically dispatched the penalty. But had the game remained 11 vs 11 I feel Chelsea would have gone on to win it.
They were far more organized and disciplined and looked dangerous on the counter attack. Their attacking intentions diminished in the second period, and understandably so with a man less, but I think Lukaku could have worked harder for the team and even though he has improved while away in Italy playing under Antonoi Conte at Inter Milan, he resembled the old Lukaku at times, the one who was unable to control a ball or find a teammate with a simple pass.
All the talk before the match was about the battle between him and Virgil van Dijk but following the red card, the game changed totally and the Liverpool man ended up having quite a comfortable evening.
But from what I saw last night, Chelsea will be right up there with Man City this season and with Ronaldo back at Man Utd they too will be challenging for the title along with Liverpool. It’ll be a four horse title race which will go down right to the wire.