A dull game kicked off October, a month which can be considered anything but boring, and one which would perhaps have ramifications for the rest of the season, or at least the rest of Luis Felipe Scolari’s time in charge of Chelsea.
The first day of the month saw the Blues take the field in Romania for their second game of Group A in the Champions League. After a 4-0 win over Bordeaux in the opener, we had equally high hopes ahead of the match against unknown quantity CFR Cluj.
It finished 0-0.
Cluj proved themselves as tough opposition and in truth, it could have been worse for us, as it was for Roma whom Cluj defeated in their first game of the group.
Nevertheless we moved on and showed more of a cutting edge in the Premier League against Aston Villa. Villa were making waves in the league and threatened to upset the ‘big four’ in the league and gatecrash the party. A game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would be a big test for Martin O’Neill’s side, to show whether or not they should really be mentioned in the same breath as Champions League regulars Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, and of course, our very own Blues.
One of our best displays of the season answered the question: are Villa good enough to challenge in the league?
First-half goals from Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka bagged the points for Chelsea, but that only tells half the story. Absolute domination was the theme of the day as Chelsea controlled and swaggered in equal measures. This was a real marker for our title credentials, and showed once again what this team is capable of. Truly brilliant.
An international break stopped our world-beating form before it had even stretched itself beyond the one game, and we were left counting the cost of sending some players off to play for their countries as a mini-injury crisis reared its head prior to a trip to Middlesbrough.
Michael Ballack needed operations on both feet, while Petr Cech, Joe Cole, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho would all miss out too.
The Riverside Stadium had been a bit of a bogey ground for us in recent seasons and with several players out there was a nagging worry that we could struggle again.
By the final whistle, with a 5-0 win under our belts, struggling was not something we did. Salomon Kalou bagged two, Juliano Belletti scored a real Juliano Belletti goal, Frank Lampard scored a rare header, and Florent Malouda completed the scoring. First Villa, now Boro. We were flying in the league and really starting to click.
A 1-0 win over Roma in the Champions League followed, with John Terry heading home to snatch the points against a typically tight, Italian side.
Wins were piling up, regardless of whether they were flamboyant or battling, and nothing but nothing could stand in our way in October.
Except for Liverpool of course.
The 86 game unbeaten record in home league games was ended by perhaps the one team who we didn’t want to end it. A lucky Liverpool goal (where have we heard that before?) early on was the difference between the two sides as Chelsea laboured to create chances. Nothing seemed to work for Scolari’s side as Liverpool stifled the home side and blocked off every route to goal. Blues fans began to question the playing style despite previously impressive performances during the month. Ok so the system works sometimes, but what about when it doesn’t? A Plan B topped the wish list of those disillusioned Chelsea fans, shocked into action by the end of the unbeaten run.
Thankfully the month didn’t end there, on a disappointing note. We travelled to high-flying Hull (yes, they really were high-flying once upon a time) and returned to form immediately. An exquisite left-footed angled chip from Lampard early on settled the nerves and appeased the dissenters, before Anelka and Malouda scored to hand Chelsea a 3-0 away win.
Although October was notable for some big wins and domineering performances, there was still that one game which puts a negative slant on things. Scolari had lost his first game in charge, and cracks were already emerging in his seemingly infallible system. November would be key for Chelsea, Scolari, and the hunt for silverware.