Fears of a 'Mourinho season' allayed as Chelsea topple Spurs at Wembley
Chelsea's ability to tear up the form-book is nothing new, particularly where arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur are concerned.
Even so, the reversal of expectation at Wembley which saw the Blues beat Spurs 2-1 immediately ended the "crisis club" chatter that had followed the shock home defeat to Burnley on the opening day of the season surprised many.
Minus the services of skipper Gary Cahill and experienced midfielder Cesc Fabregas, both lost to suspension via needless red cards picked up against the Clarets, the portents didn't look good for Chelsea and their manager Antonio Conte in particular especially given the way Spurs had clinically won at Newcastle in their season opener.
Conte had already voiced concerns about needing reinforcements to his threadbare-looking squad, but even if the Chelsea board managed to oblige the Italian with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alex Sandro or Danny Drinkwater -- three players being constantly linked with big-money moves to Stamford Bridge -- any deals were not going to be completed ahead of the Wembley showdown.
With the spat with wantaway striker Diego Costa rumbling on in the background and Conte having spoken about the need to avoid a "Mourinho season" the pressure was on.
The last thing Chelsea needed was a match against Tottenham, a team whose ambitions they have thwarted like no other in the past couple of years. The 4-2 FA Cup semifinal humbling at Wembley in April and the stunting of Spurs ambitions winning the league first when battling back at the Bridge from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in May 2016 and then winning 2-1 at the same venue last season had to hurt. Oh the burning desire that Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and his talented team of young players must have had to hammer Chelsea at the home of English football where they will play their league fixtures this season.
It's true that since the inception of the Premier League 25 years ago Spurs have struggled against the Blues. Prior to yesterday's game at Wembley, Tottenham had won just five of 50 matches against Chelsea in the new format top-flight -- all of them at White Hart Lane -- however, in recent seasons, Spurs have had the upper hand on their own turf with the Blues managing just one win in 10 visits.
Wembley isn't White Hart Lane but roared on by over 70,000 supporters Tottenham should have beaten Conte's makeshift Chelsea side. But despite having the lion's share of possession (68 percent), the most shots (18 to 9), the most corners (14 to three) it was the Blues who won and sent their 3,000 jubilant fans home happy.
Statistics are meaningless in the face of true grit, determination and fighting spirit and Chelsea had those qualities in abundance. Conte's ability to make the most of the resources available to him won the day. A match with Tottenham is not the ideal scenario to for experimentation but the Blues boss did just that fielding David Luiz in front of a back three of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta. Further forward there was a debut for Tiemoue Bakayoko and a first start for Alvaro Morata who had excelled when scoring and assisting off the bench against Burnley last week.
Morata may have fluffed his lines against Spurs with a glaring early miss, but in the end it didn't matter because wing-back Marcos Alonso won the day with a brace of goals and Chelsea defence stood firm in the face of continuous pressure.
Despite scoring six goals and providing five assists in the league last season, Alonso's first-team Chelsea future has been cast in some doubt of late with the speculation surrounding a transfer move for Alex Sandro of Juventus. Why spend £60 million on a player when you have a match-winner of Alonso's capabilities in your ranks? Even in the loss against Burnley, the Spaniard had five attempts on goal, more than any of his teammates.
The victory against Spurs will have galvanised Conte and his players. The "Mourinho season" isn't going to happen. Chelsea have proved they are worthy champions. It will be interesting to see in the wake of the Wembley triumph what happens in the final days of the transfer window. Common sense should now prevail, there is no need for the type of knee-jerk acquisitions that were being talked about after the Burnley loss.
Thursday will see the draw for the group stages of the Champions League, a competition Chelsea missed out on last season and Blues supporters have every reason to be optimistic about their team's chances if they can continue to replicate the battling display that won the day at Wembley.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco