For the first time since October 2010 Chelsea has put five white sheets in a row.
Chelsea’s Champions League victory over Rennes could not have been more routine than a half-time fight with their rivals, reduced to damage control and a 45-minute numerical backlog.
And yet, despite its down-to-earth and comfortable manner, the 3-0 success can be seen in a broader context as another sign of progress under manager Frank Lampard, hiding a little under the radar.
Chelsea’s last Champions League triumph was never in doubt after two first half penalties from Timo Werner, both of which were awarded to Rennes defender Dalbert, the second for a serious handball foul that resulted in a second yellow card and a suspension.
Tammy Abraham’s third performance confirmed only a very easy evening, but Lampard has every reason to look beyond this victory and feel a growing confidence in his new Chelsea face.
The fingers clearly showed Chelsea’s defense and Lampard’s organizational ability, which had struggled early in the season, especially when he missed three goals in a draw at West Bromwich Albion and home to Southampton.
Capa Arrizabalaga, a shocking purchase of 71 million pounds, and the 39-year old Willie Caballero share the goalkeeper stakes, while the English left behind Ben Chilwell, who signed for 50 million pounds for Leicester City, was initially injured and the 36 year old Thiago Silva is used to the pace of the Premier League.
Lampard’s conviction that Chelsea faces will change as new faces become more familiar is becoming more and more apparent.
The signature of Renne’s goalkeeper Edouard Mendy brought a solidity and tranquillity rarely found in the Arrizabalags. Of course, it’s still early, but the signs are good.
Chelsea has now made eight years of progress without missing a goal, with Mendy helping them keep five consecutive sheets without giving in for the first time since October 2010. In the first three games of their Champions League campaign, last played in 2009-2010, they have not missed a single goal.
The 28-year-old Mundy is a very personal project of Chelsea technical advisor Petr Cech, one of the greats of the club in his position, who also played for Renna.
Chekh’s contribution was important in his decision to sign Mandy, and showed that he stood out from the 30 teachers he had tutored over the past 18 months.
Thiago Silva now brings his experience and gets the best out of Kurt Zuma, while Chilwell quickly gets better. The Brazilian veteran barely broke the sweat against Rennes, organized, regulated, made the most important interceptions and sometimes even pulverized the most beautiful long passes.
Werner’s £47.5m contract with RB Leipzig and his two goals on Wednesday made seven of Chelsea’s and Germany’s last seven games.
Werner has the pace and a powerful mix of greed and selflessness that make him a great asset to Chelsea. He is certainly the man in office now, after having received two categorical fines as a result of Giorgio’s recent failures.
He is also an expert on the league and has been directly involved in 13 goals, 10 goals and three assists in his last 14 Champions League appearances, the last five of them in the penalty area.
Hakim Ziec demonstrated its potential in the outbreaks, although Kai Havertz disappeared after a positive test on Kovid-19.
At Chelsea, quality has always come first. Doubts were in the rearguard, but now they are turning on both sides of the field with great quality in midfield against uniformed Rennes players Giorgiño, Mason Mount and N’Golo Cante, who were in the starting line-up.
Mendy looks like a role at the finish and shows that he can concentrate with some delay after becoming almost unemployed.
It’s not a good time to get carried away, but this invincible sequence and the way it’s assembled will be the reason for a calm self-confidence around Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea is in seventh place in the unpredictable and unstable Premier League, but only four points behind the leaders and defending champions Liverpool.
Lampard’s first days give Chelsea a new face for the second season, with the new characters and talents he has inherited – but on Tuesday he will leave Stamford Bridge with growing optimism.
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