When both Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku hobbled off in Chelsea’s Champions League win over Malmö in October, there was genuine concern that their injuries could derail the Blues’ fine start to the season.
Two of the Chelsea’s scant options to play through the middle were out for weeks, with some big games on the horizon.
Just where would the goals come from? Well, everywhere it turns out.
Aside from the frustrating draw with Burnley and the reverse fixture at Malmö where goals were hard to come by (although they still scored), Chelsea have reached a new attacking plane in the absence of their two main strikers – culminating in the demolition of Juventus on Tuesday night.
It is such a rare thing in football for a side to adapt and fill the gaps so seamlessly. In the time that Lukaku and Werner have been out, Chelsea have evolved and posed a threat from absolutely everywhere.
That was evidenced again in the 4-0 destruction of the Bianconeri, as four goalscorers from four different areas of the pitch did the damage; the first goal arrived through centre-back Trevoh Chalobah, who showed a striker’s instinct and poise to fire a loose ball beyond Wojciech Szczesny on the swivel.
Wing-back Reece James made it 2-0 in what was a dominant second half for the hosts. He took down Matthijs de Ligt’s poor clearance on his chest, let the ball bounce and then thundered it beyond the hapless Szczesny.
James – who is undoubtedly among the best in the world in his position at the moment – has epitomised the ‘one for all’ attitude head coach Thomas Tuchel has instilled at the club, emerging as the club’s top goalscorer this season but never, ever shirking his defensive responsibilities. He was key in keeping Alex Sandro and Federico Chiesa quiet throughout proceedings at Stamford Bridge, despite managing to attack at every opportunity.
The third was finished by Callum Hudson-Odoi, but created by a mazy dribble from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who left the entirety of the Juve back line in his wake before laying the ball on a plate for the winger.
The back to front of goalscorers was aptly rounded off by the returning Werner, who was handed a tap-in after a fine low cross from Hakim Ziyech. James was inevitably involved in the build-up, winning the ball before pinging a pinpoint cross-field pass to the Moroccan to provide the assist.
A pleasing sub-narrative was that the first three names on the scoresheet were Chelsea academy graduates, as was the assister for the third, Loftus-Cheek.
Given it’s something that has clearly been meticulously coached down to the finest detail, Tuchel’s ability to get this level of attacking output from his whole squad in a time of need has been nothing short of a stroke of genius.
The ominous thing is that Werner returned with a goal and Lukaku was fit enough for the bench as he edges closer to a return. With those two in the lineup, this side could evolve into something even more threatening.