Chelsea rivals should really start to worry after powerful Juventus fell asleep with Europe effectively put to bed for the winter.
It was a night to remember for Thomas Tuchel in his 50th lead game. An impressive show of strength from a team that is only getting stronger.
And with the qualification for the knockout stage of the Champions League, the German can focus his attention on the problems at home and widen the gap between his team and the chasing pack.
Good luck to Manchester United, who travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. There is no more frightening prospect right now than facing the European champions, with confidence surging and key players returning.
Juve can attest to that. The Italian giants shriveled up against a Chelsea side who intimidated them all over the pitch in a 4-0 win that could have been the most complete in 10 months at the helm of Tuchel.
He’s already provided a host of landmark performances – most notably the Champions League final in May – but we’re increasingly starting to see what his vision for Chelsea looks like.
Tuchel’s genius so far has been to work with the tools he has inherited, to adapt to the hand given to him. It has been a case of organization rather than inspiration for most.
But on Tuesday night his side produced a performance of champions, in a way that will have everyone inside Stamford Bridge believe they are witnessing the next dominant force in European football.
Chelsea pushed high – barely allowing Juve to come out of their own half. They dominated possession – sucking the lives of their opponents. And they launched attacks with devastating rhythm, movement and variation. It’s ‘Tuchelball’ – and we’re going to have to stop.
It was a Chelsea without Romelu Lukaku, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner or Mason Mount in the starting XI. But the absence of this offensive quartet only underscored the threat they pose from everywhere on the pitch.
Trevoh Chalobah and Reece James put them on the path to victory, making them 16 goals scored by defenders in all competitions this season.
Tuchel may have a reputation for building the meanest of rearguards, but it’s the freedom he gives his defenders that makes Chelsea such a dangerous proposition.
His full-backs are indeed wingers, with James and Ben Chilwell more often completing a five-man front row. Center-backs, meanwhile, are a constant threat from set pieces, as evidenced by Chalobah’s volley to open the scoring from a corner.
Tuchel has been called too cautious since arriving in England – an opinion widely informed by Chelsea’s superb defensive record. Last night was their 12th clean sheet in 20 games this season. They have never conceded more than one.
But he ignores how they dominate possession and scoring chances.
The problem has been their lack of tip which is why a club record of £ 97.5million was invested in Lukaku this summer. This is the one area Tuchel has struggled to master, with none of his forwards proving a consistent goal threat during his time at Bridge. Still, he came to terms with that by unleashing the attacking potential of the rest of his team.
James’ brilliant strike 11 minutes after halftime was his fifth of the season. He has the same number of assists. Chalobah was his third in his first year in Chelsea’s first team. Chilwell has three and Toni Rudiger two.
When it happens so often, it is no accident. Still, Tuchel is determined to see Lukaku emulate the form that saw the Belgian sack Inter Milan to the Italian title last season. He wants the consistency of Havertz, Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi. He wants Mount to rediscover last season’s form.
That Hudson-Odoi and Werner were on the scoresheet last night is encouraging. Likewise, Pulisic v Leicester on Saturday.
This latest victory was the ninth time Chelsea have scored three or more goals in a game this season. Tuchel only managed once last season after taking over in January. This is another example of how his team has evolved and it’s an ongoing process.
Lukaku was on the bench Tuesday night after recovering from an ankle injury, while Werner was a scoring replacement following hamstring strain.
They have been away for a month, but return to a team that has barely felt the effects of their absence.
But they should add another dimension to Chelsea’s attack, something their rivals need to be worried about.