‘Why Chelsea already look hard to stop’

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September 22, 2021
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    Alan Shearer column banner

    The Premier League title race is only just getting started, but Chelsea already look like they will be very hard to stop.

    Thomas Tuchel's side look seriously impressive right now, but they have done since he took charge in January.

    Even when they are not playing well or things go wrong – like it did when Reece James was sent off at Anfield last month – Chelsea still give very little away.

    As they showed in their brilliant 3-0 win at Tottenham on Sunday, the Blues have an extremely strong squad and a very good manager too.

    Tuchel changed it up at half-time, and brought on N'Golo Kante for Mason Mount, which gave Chelsea more presence in midfield and allowed their two wing-backs, particularly Marcos Alonso, to push further forward.

    There had not been much in it in the first half, but they stepped on the gas in the second half and absolutely battered Spurs.

    Chelsea were so strong all over the pitch and, once they got their first goal, it was just a case of how many they would end up with.

    It could have been six or seven by the end, and would have been if not for poor finishing and some good goalkeeping.

    Another impressive away result for Tuchel

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    When Spurs did threaten in the first half, both Chelsea centre-halves looked extremely solid, particularly Thiago Silva, who I thought was the man of the match. He got their first goal to start everything off, and just looked so assured in everything he did.

    We are only five games into the new season but Chelsea have already gone to Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham and taken seven points from those matches.

    The time they did drop points, in their draw at Liverpool, they played with 10 men for the entire second half. That shows you how strong they are mentally as well as being so well drilled defensively.

    Before a ball was kicked in this campaign I picked Chelsea to be champions because I thought Romelu Lukaku would make the difference in attack after they missed too many chances last season.

    Lukaku is not the only reason they are so formidable – they won the Champions League in May without him – but his arrival means they don't have a weak link in their team, and they have such strength in depth too.

    Being able to bring a player as good as Kante off the bench against Spurs was another example of that. Their manager is not only able to see where things are not working in a game, but he has the quality on the bench to change things around and make a difference.

    Chelsea's next test is against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but that won't faze them.

    They beat City three times under Tuchel last season, including in the Champions League final. He will be ready for Pep Guardiola again, I'm sure.

    • Everything you need to know about Chelsea, all in one place

    A big three points for Man Utd

    Snapshot of the top of the Premier League: 1st Chelsea, 2nd Liverpool, 3rd Man Utd, 4th Brighton, 5th Man City & 6th Everton

    It is a three-way tie at the top of the table at the moment, with Manchester United and Liverpool also on 13 points.

    Manchester United's 2-1 victory at West Ham earlier on Sunday was far from straightforward, but it was the type of win that can really galvanise a team after they took a bit of criticism for their Champions League defeat in midweek.

    Jesse Lingard's mistake gifted Young Boys victory and United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got some stick for the substitutions he made near the end of that game, but both of them bounced back from that at London Stadium.

    Cristiano Ronaldo denied two stonewall penalties – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

    Solskjaer was brave and again made late changes against West Ham with the result in the balance.

    This time they paid off. Just like he did on Wednesday, he brought on Lingard and Nemanja Matic – and it was Matic who played in Lingard to score the winner. No-one was questioning Solskjaer's substitutions after that.

    Instead we were talking about the officials. It was a very strange game in terms of refereeing decisions and VAR and I thought they got so many things wrong.

    West Ham should have had another penalty and United should definitely have had one – possibly two – spot-kicks, both for fouls on Cristiano Ronaldo which looked obvious.

    It could have been a day when those decisions cost United a win, but it turned out to be a big three points for them.

    David de Gea was their hero at the end with his stoppage-time penalty save, but it was a very strange decision by Hammers boss David Moyes to bring on Mark Noble to take the spot-kick.

    Noble had not kicked a ball before he took it and had not even warmed up. I know he has got an impressive penalty record, but it was a massive gamble by Moyes and it backfired.

    • Go straight to all the best Manchester United content

    How are the rest of the big four shaping up?

    Liverpool had to give everything in 'hard-fought win'

    Liverpool have also made a flying start to the new campaign and they have really impressed me.

    Unlike their title rivals, the Reds did not make any marquee signings over the summer – their only major buy was £35m defender Ibrahima Konate – but I don't think they have gone under the radar. They certainly haven't for me, because I already know how good they are.

    Jurgen Klopp's side cannot be ignored, especially now Virgil van Dijk is back from injury and showing again why he is one of their most influential players.

    City have dropped the most points out of the main contenders so far, and Saturday's home draw with Southampton was a poor result for them when you consider Liverpool's performance against Crystal Palace, United's win and particularly what Chelsea did at Spurs.

    It will be between those four sides come the end of the season, but I will stick with what I said in the summer: Chelsea are the team to beat.

    • Go straight to all the best Liverpool content

    Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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