Rivals' inconsistency fuels Chelsea's Premier League ambitions

Posted by Phil Lythell

Although Chelsea might have been blown away by the rapacious Radamel Falcao in the UEFA Super Cup, they exited the weekend in a pleasing, if illusory, position domestically.

The two closest challengers for the summit of the Premier League failed to get their desired results and the Blues remain on top of the pile. Swansea would have been the surprise leaders after three matches courtesy of goal difference had they collected all three points against Sunderland but had to settle for an entertaining 2-2 draw instead. Everton would have had to have won by a handsome margin to dethrone Chelsea but that was never likely to happen as they were swept aside 2-0 by West Bromwich Albion.

Prior to the start of the campaign the likelihood of adding a fifth league title to the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet did not look realistic and while it is nice to see Roberto Di Matteo's boys leading the way that view remains largely the same. The three victories so far in the Premier League have all seen the team play a new brand of attractive, exciting football and have provided much encouragement for the coming years. Yet, as ever, perspective is crucial. While none of the beaten opponents were whipping boys by any means, Wigan away followed by Reading and Newcastle at home are fixtures that have three points written all over them even if the Magpies are a more potent force these days.

Don't forget, Chelsea have suffered defeat on two occasions already this season against the two hardest sides they have faced - Manchester City and Atletico Madrid. Of course, the FA Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup are little more than glorified friendlies but there can be no doubt that the Blues were second best on each occasion. At present it is too early to gauge precisely at what level this team is operating. The talent and ambition is certainly there though a lack of understanding from one to eleven is not quite there, the Eden Hazard / Fernando Torres connection excepted.

The balance between attack and defence is predictably looking like the Achilles heel though my previous declaration of us looking more like Arsenal than Barcelona has been proved wrong due to Arsenal's new found solidity at the back. No goals conceded in their first three matches has demonstrated a new resilience among the Gunners, but that stubbornness has been offset by Robin van Persie's replacement, Oliver Giroud, continuing to fire blanks at the other end.

That example of "one step forward, one step back" seems to be prevalent throughout all the traditional big clubs so far this season with both Manchester clubs appearing to have ditched the notion of defending completely. No clean sheets for either club has seen City and United concede five times each already with vulnerabilities exposed by modest clubs such as Southampton, QPR and Fulham. Then again, Chelsea were 2-1 down at home to Reading so perhaps any crowing should be kept to a minimum especially as each of last year's top two currently sit within three points of the Blues.

Tottenham have still not won a game; Andre Villas-Boas penchant for letting in late goals having been transported from Stamford Bridge to White Hart Lane. Liverpool are in the same boat but with one less point. Their neighbours Everton have been brought back down to earth after a great start while Newcastle are still to get into gear.

None of the 20 teams currently look particularly dangerous and certainly not unbeatable. Like last season, it appears as if it will be hotly contested at all levels with every team capable of worrying the big boys. That could play into the hands of Chelsea should Di Mateo be able to extract a degree of consistency and fitness throughout the team. But let's not get excited just yet, ok?

ESPN Conversations