Chelsea saw a glimpse into a glittering future but also demonstrated why familiar old failings need to be addressed as they opened their Premier League season with victory at Brighton.
Manager Frank Lampard knows expectations will be sky high among supporters – and very pertinently among Chelsea’s hierarchy – after a summer spending spree that will eventually total well in excess of £200m.
Owner Roman Abramovich will be well aware of Lampard’s legendary status at Stamford Bridge but he is not the sentimental type when it comes to managers who do not give him value for his money.
This means Lampard, after fulfilling the goal of a top-four place and Champions League football last season, will need his new acquisitions to deliver on the club’s massive investment.
In a hard-fought 3-1 win at Brighton, Chelsea illustrated why they have spent big on Timo Werner, why they need £45m signing from Leicester City Ben Chilwell and experienced free transfer Thiago Silva from Paris St-Germain to help an ailing rearguard and why Lampard is close to signing Rennes keeper Edouard Mendy in a £20m deal.
All sides of Chelsea were on show on the south coast – which is why Lampard will take the three points and try to cure more faults before Premier League champions Liverpool roll into Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Let’s start with the good news.
Werner, the 24-year-old Germany striker signed from RB Leipzig for £47.5m, looks the real deal and a perfect fit for the Premier League.
He may not have got on the scoresheet in his first game but he was a blur of perpetual motion, his pace and mobility a constant concern for Brighton. He won the penalty from which Jorginho gave Chelsea the lead and was on the prowl all night.
Kai Havertz, the 21-year-old attacking midfielder captured in a £71m deal with Bayer Leverkusen, was a more subdued figure but showed occasional touches of class and clearly impressed Lampard with his work-rate, drawing applause on several occasions, especially for one 50-yard track back and tackle.
He looked like a class act and will be delighted to get that first Premier League game out of the way.
And then the questions start.
The biggest of all surrounds goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, given an endorsement by Lampard after the match but once again not looking like the foundation on which Premier League title-winning sides are built.
Kepa flapped unconvincingly at a corner in the first half and while he redeemed himself with a routine save from Steven Alzate, he got suspiciously close enough to Leandro Trossard’s equaliser to beg the question as to why he didn’t do more about it.
The Spaniard has conceded more Premier League goals from outside the area (19) than any other goalkeeper since he moved to England. Indeed, excluding blocked shots, Kepa has conceded from nine of the last 13 overall shots on target he has faced in the Premier League.
Lampard says any new keeper, expected to be Rennes’ Mendy, will arrive to provide competition but past history suggests Kepa is once again fighting for his Chelsea future, remembering how he was left out for 38-year-old Willy Caballero with a result needed for Champions League qualification last season.
Kepa simply does not give off an air of confidence, hardly helpful for a defence that too often gives the impression of living on its nerves.
It was a former Chelsea player, the outstanding Tariq Lamptey, who underscored why signing a new left-back in Chilwell had been a priority area.
The young Brighton right-back gave Marcos Alonso – starting while Chilwell is injured – a rough evening and posed a constant attacking threat.
Silva’s signing also made sense when you saw how Chelsea were unsettled on occasions.
The 35-year-old Brazilian who captained PSG in the Champions League final is seen as the experienced leader and organizer who can bring order to Lampard’s rearguard.
In other words, this first 90 minutes of the season shone a light on why Lampard’s transfer policy makes perfect sense.
Chelsea, as they were last season, looked a threat going forward but left plenty of room for doubt at the back, especially when they face a potent attack such as Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in their next Premier League game.
Lampard will be happy to see an understandably rusty performance end in an important opening win.
It allowed Chelsea to get the show on the road in a season when they will not simply be expected to cement a place in the top four but come close enough to a title challenge (even if winning is perhaps too much to expect) to make Abramovich feel as if he is getting a return on his financial faith in his manager.
Werner and Havertz will make their contributions, with the injured Hakim Ziyech to come, but Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Chelsea’s new goalkeeper cannot come soon enough to enable the new Stamford Bridge era to hit its stride.
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