Chelsea’s 3-3 draw against Southampton was only a little over two weeks ago, but already Frank Lampard’s team appear to be an entirely different beast.
There have been four clean sheets since then, a conscious effort to improve a defensive record that was the subject of scorn from fans and pundits alike.
And the key change has been obvious: goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, brought in from Rennes, has replaced the error-prone Kepa Arrizabalaga, whose dismal form gave Lampard no choice but to find an alternative option.
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Mendy has established himself in a short space of time, proving himself a dependable and reassuring presence behind a back four that has also been bolstered by the signings of Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell.
Suddenly, Chelsea look capable of withstanding spells of pressure in games, of emerging with a good result even when not playing their most fluid football. That was certainly the case in the goalless draws against Manchester United and Sevilla.
But it was against Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday that the value of Mendy really came to the forefront. He was relatively untroubled throughout, but when called into action he did his job well. His distribution was good, crosses were dealt with and there were no unforced errors.
That reliability allowed the attacking players to flourish. The likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz will no longer feel like they have to create and score three goals in a game just to guarantee a point.
It’s more evidence, too, that the signing of Arrizabalaga was an expensive mistake, one that left Lampard stuck with a substandard goalkeeper for a whole season. With a transfer ban in place, and the ageing Willy Caballero hardly a long-term option, Arrizabalaga was almost a guaranteed starter last season regardless of performances.
Chelsea were probably keen to get a return on their…