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4 Reasons Chelsea needn't panic

Wednesday 16th August 2017
Should Chelsea panic after dropping its season opener at home to Burnley? Do you rush to the ER with a hangnail? Here are four reasons why life will go on at the Bridge. 

Many football fans are like children. Time has no meaning. Past and future don't exist. It's no use for parents to say, "when I was your age..." The little ankle biters can't conceive of mom and dad as anything other than huge adults. Or themselves as anything other than children. All they and football fans like them can do is react to the moment. Even when said moment is diametrically opposed to the previous, they are immediately convinced it irrevocably shapes their existence.

Chelsea Football Club began the season falling behind to Burnley 3-0. One team is the defending Premier League Champion. The other largely frets over relegation. The score was no help in identifying either.

Holders Chelsea also had two players sent off during the contest but scored a goal each when one and two men down. Pundits being little different than fans, there were many panicked reactions to the loss in the media.
Some valid points were raised: squad depth, Eden Hazard's injury, every dropped point being critical in a crowded title-contending field, Antonio Conte mishandling Diego Costa's release. At the same time, there are many reasons not to run about like a headless chicken crying out that the sky is falling in on Stamford Bridge. Here are four.

1. The sky is not falling in on Stamford Bridge

As noted already, despite Eden Hazard's absence from the start, Gary Cahill's soon after, and Cesc Fabregas' with ten minutes remaining, the Blues fought their way back into the match after a disastrous start. David Luiz's goal on 88' actually gave them a chance for a result.

Help is on the way, as well. Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko are nearly back from injury. Conte may yet talk Roman Abramovich into recruiting one or two players to provide cover at d-mid and up front, albeit not the three or four wishful-thinking Frank Lampard mooted. If nine current Chelsea players can manage to threaten 11 belonging to the Ginger Mourinho, aka Burnley's uber-defensive boss Sean Dyche, they should be fine against anyone on any given day when at full strength. So just stop.

Not convinced? Fine...

2. Alvaro Morata doesn't need time to settle in

The former Real Madrid and Juventus (and Real Madrid) sniper did in this match what he has done for most of his young career with the two European giants: not start.
Antonio Conte, failing to anticipate his side's sudden unfamiliarity with the concept of discipline, elected to give young, little-used forward Michy Batshuayi an opportunity against an opponent that had performed abysmally away from Turf Moor in 2016-17. When the young Belgian proved unable to cut into the Clarets' lead by the hour-mark, Conte summoned Morata.

Ten minutes later, Willian juked Robbie Brady out of his boots just beyond the 18-yard box. In the clear for a moment, he whipped in a low cross. Morata read it, then charged into it like a Pamplona bull, goring it past a flummoxed Tom Heaton.

Although a brace was ruled out for offsides, the Spaniard wasn't done. His deft flick-on from Cesar Azpilicueta's long pass sent David Luiz in free to cut the lead to one. Morata came to Stamford Bridge to start but the 24-year-old has a long-established history for performing admirably in whatever role he is given. With a goal and an assist in an abbreviated debut, Morata seems a lock to make Blues faithful forget a certain temperamental predecessor.

3. Just ignore that loud banging on the door

Surprisingly, Conte allowed two key players to leave after his title-winning inaugural season. One, Nemanja Matic, went quietly. Happily even. The other not so much.

Diego Costa has every right to be upset his new manager instant messaged him rather than releasing him face to face. Publishing the private message wasn't the best way to handle the insult. Nor was hiring a lawyer to litigate a transfer to Atletico Madrid, supposedly the only other club for which he will play. The Rojiblancos are serving a transfer ban. They couldn't have signed Neymar on a free if the Brazilian had wanted to come. If Costa won't suit up elsewhere, he might as well find a nice beach until January. I hear the Seychelles are nice.
From the opposite perspective, Antonio Conte probably had enough of Costa in one season for an entire career. His silly, needless bookings. His flirtation with the Chinese Super League. It's more infuriating to play against than with the naturalised Spaniard but his daily presence is infuriating nevertheless.

That sentiment goes beyond Conte, too. While they may all be grateful and speak kind words in the press, Costa's ex-mates are probably relieved to see his back, especially with ultimate teammate Morata as a replacement. It's a long season.

Which brings us to the final, most important point...

4. It's a long season

Chelsea didn't exactly begin the 2016-17 campaign with guns blazing. More like tailpipes backfiring. It took the new Italian boss several weeks to find his best XI and optimal formation. When Conte switched to the 3-4-3, his side moved into the fast lane. He has a new player or four, not to mention the two key departures. He may have to tweak things again to suit the new mix. And why not? His meddling turned out well last time.

At 2017-18's outset, his squad had one more lesson to learn. Conte demands full immersion and commitment to his program from every player. That's a known fact. Nevertheless, this group isn't Juventus. They haven't had to switch right back on after deservedly putting everything behind them for the summer as the Bianconeri were prepared to do for their former captain to begin the 2012-13 season. Yet, two red cards issued and a first-half drubbing at home delivered by a decidedly inferior side set the Blues straight if the second-half fight back is any indication.

Chelsea didn't get out of the blocks well. Conte's men find themselves looking up at all their principal rivals. No matter. As they demonstrated last season, position only matters at the finish.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.

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