The picture at Stamford Bridge is brighter now than it was a few weeks ago. Chelsea are currently on a three-game winning run and have climbed to 11th place in the Premier League table. This might not sound impressive for a club that won the Champions League as recently as 2021, but the Blues are at least moving in the right direction.
2023 has been a difficult year for Chelsea. They have gone through three different managers this year and have struggled to escape a spiral which saw the Blues finish a lowly 12th last season. The way this season was going under Mauricio Pochettino, there were no guarantees they would improve on that.
However, wins over Brighton, Fulham and Burnley have lifted the mood at Stamford Bridge. These are matches Chelsea should always have the quality to win, so it would be foolish to draw any concrete conclusions from them, but the coherence of their performances surely encouraged Pochettino.
Saturday’s match against Arsenal presents Chelsea with a big opportunity to prove they have turned the corner. The Gunners will arrive at Stamford Bridge as Premier League title challengers having finished second last season. They are also fresh from a potentially season-defining victory over Manchester City before the international break.
Arsenal beat Chelsea home and away in the Premier League last season and will be favourites to claim another win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. However, Pochettino and his players can make a statement by upsetting the odds and producing a performance that highlights the progress they have made in a short period of time.
Cole Palmer will surely start for the Blues after an impressive start to life at his new club. The 21-year-old has been deployed by Pochettino on the right side of Chelsea’s attack, giving his team some much-needed balance in the centre of the pitch where Palmer likes to drift inside and influence play.
“We are giving him a starting position on the right to play in between the lines because he is ready to be unpredictable,” said Pochettino after Palmer scored his first goal for Chelsea in the away victory over Burnley before the international break. “Football is a game where you need to be unpredictable and he has the capacity to do this.”
Enzo Fernandez is growing in stature for Chelsea while Moises Caicedo is starting to understand the role he has been handed at the base of the midfield. Raheem Sterling is replicating the sort of form that made him so special for Manchester City. Even Mykhailo Mudryk has shown some glimmers of his ability.
Pochettino is still contending with a number of injuries to key players like Ben Chilwell and Reece James, but there is a sense that things are finally starting to settle. The new Chelsea manager now has a better idea of the qualities within his squad and that is starting to manifest itself on the pitch.
Chelsea have a run of three home matches upcoming with fixtures against Arsenal and Brentford in the Premier League and Blackburn Rovers in the Carabao Cup. It’s important the Blues make the most of this run because it will be followed by matches against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Brighton and Manchester United.
Pochettino’s Chelsea are a work-in-progress and so expectations should remain realistic. It’s unlikely the Blues will finish in the Premier League’s top four this season. They probably won’t be back in the Champions League next season, but there are early signs that Chelsea are on an upward trajectory for the first time in a long while.