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Chelsea's history of perfect starts bodes well for the Maurizio Sarri era

Alejandro Moreno and Gab Marcotti question if Chelsea are better off without Alvaro Morata in the lineup as his struggles continue.
Shaka Hislop felt both Chelsea and Newcastle received a goal from poor officiating, but in the end Chelsea deserved their result.
Shaka Hislop felt both Chelsea and Newcastle received a goal from poor officiating, but in the end Chelsea deserved their result.

It's fair to say Maurizio Sarri's revolution at Chelsea is ahead of schedule. Wins over Huddersfield Town, Arsenal and Newcastle have lifted the Blues to the top of the table alongside Liverpool and Watford, with champions Manchester City two points behind.

Sarri was understandably keen to dismiss the significance of Chelsea's lofty position this early in the season, but their start is an impressive achievement. Only six previous Blues sides have won all three of their opening Premier League matches in the Roman Abramovich era. Four went on to claim the title.

ESPN FC takes a look back at those teams to put Sarri's perfect start into perspective:

2004-05: Mourinho's fast start

Manchester United were the opening-day visitors to Stamford Bridge, giving a fresh-faced Jose Mourinho the chance to back up his self-proclaimed "Special One" status by beating Sir Alex Ferguson.

He did, a 1-0 win the reward for a typically controlled performance, and Chelsea followed up with tight-but-convincing away victories over Birmingham City and Crystal Palace. There were none of the thrills but also few of the defensive scares of Sarri's early days, with Mourinho's side scoring four goals and conceding none.

Chelsea eventually claimed the title by 12 points from Arsenal's fading "Invincibles", losing just one game all season and conceding a then-record-low 15 goals as summer signings Petr Cech and Ricardo Carvalho fortified an already formidable defence.

2005-06: Defending champions imperious

Mourinho's team began the following season heavy favourites to retain their title and lived up to the billing. Hernan Crespo, back from loan at AC Milan, snatched a fortuitous opening-day win over Wigan Athletic and, not for the last time, Didier Drogba proved the scourge of Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

After a pair of grinding 1-0 victories, Chelsea found their attacking groove at home to West Brom, winning 4-0 with Drogba, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole all on the scoresheet. Their perfect start continued until their 10th Premier League game of the season, a 1-1 draw with Everton at Goodison Park.

A second consecutive title was virtually won by early spring, secured with Mourinho's trademark blend of attacking firepower, miserly defence and power all over the pitch.

2009-10: Ancelotti brings the swagger back

Carlo Ancelotti was brought to Stamford Bridge to win the Champions League, but the Italian's biggest achievement was claiming Chelsea's first post-Mourinho league title -- and he did it in style.

Implementing a 4-4-2 diamond and encouraging his players to express themselves in attack, Ancelotti benefited from favourable early fixtures. Hull City, Sunderland and Fulham were beaten by an aggregate score of 7-2, with Drogba scoring three of what would end up being 29 Premier League goals.

Drogba and Lampard both enjoyed the most prolific scoring seasons of their careers as Ancelotti re-branded Chelsea the entertainers of English football, netting 103 league goals -- a competition record until Pep Guardiola's relentless City came along.

2010-11: A dazzling false dawn

Chelsea began their title defence as they had ended the previous season, recording back-to-back 6-0 thrashings of West Brom and Wigan before seeing off Stoke City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Ancelotti's attacking trident of Drogba, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka ran rampant, registering 10 goals combined.

But things unravelled quickly in the winter. Drogba contracted malaria while Lampard, John Terry and Michael Essien all missed significant time due to injury. By January, the season needed saving, and signing Fernando Torres from Liverpool for £50 million proved not quite the medicine required.

The same carefree expressiveness that made Chelsea so irresistible in attack under Ancelotti manifested as carelessness in defence at key moments, and the Italian was sacked in the summer after his team's flaws were exposed domestically and in Europe.

2012-13: Di Matteo's victory lap

Bowing to fan pressure after Chelsea's miracle Champions League triumph in Munich, Abramovich reluctantly handed Roberto Di Matteo a two-year contract to oversee the next phase of a team in transition.

Early results were positive. Marquee summer signing Eden Hazard dazzled with speed and trickery on the wing in wins against Wigan, Reading and Newcastle, and Torres found the net twice.

But even in victory there were signs that Chelsea were dangerously unbalanced. They had to come from 2-1 down to beat Reading and Torres never quite convinced up front. Group-stage elimination from the Champions League proved the catalyst for an autumn collapse, and Di Matteo was gone by November.

2014-15: Costa hits the ground running

Fatally undermined by a lack of consistent goals in the 2013-14 title race, Chelsea and Mourinho were confident they had found the solution with the £32 million signing of Atletico Madrid hero Diego Costa.

The Spain international wasted no time in proving them emphatically right, scoring four times in his first three Premier League appearances as Chelsea beat Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor and Leicester City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge before emerging 6-3 victors in a thrilling battle with Everton at Goodison Park.

Chelsea's path to the title was never seriously imperilled, even as they substituted glitter for grind in the second half of the season. Costa finished the campaign with 20 Premier League goals while at the other end, a defence marshalled by Terry conceded just 32.

Title challenge or not, Sarri will be hoping to strike a similar balance between attack and defence at Chelsea this season -- albeit with a very different style.

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