GILES SMITH'S THURSDAY THOUGHTS
His team's latest victory is one that got a lot of people talking and like all Chelsea fans, columnist Giles Smith isn't ready to end the debate yet…
I don't know about you, but for me the warm glow created by Monday night's performance continues to radiate, like an all-over coat of Deep Heat, or an exceptionally effective bowl of Ready Brek.
Indeed, irrespective of what happens in between times, one can imagine that glow lasting until the end of season and far beyond - receding into the background a bit, of course, but always there and ready to be summoned whenever the truly great Chelsea team performances are talked about.
Ostensibly, the victory over Manchester City didn't change very much. We were third in the table before it happened and we were still third in the table after it had finished. Yet it was remarkable for challenging and overturning so many things that everyone thought they knew for certain.
The world understood that City were simply unbeatable at home. (I got tired of hearing how they hadn't lost there since Michael Jackson was alive and supporting Fulham, or however long ago it was.) The world understood that City always scored. The world understood, moreover, that City always scored for fun. (Much was made of various basketball scores this season against the likes of Arsenal and Spurs, and the fact that City have already scored 14,746 goals in 2013/14, at a rate of more than 740 per game, or thereabouts.)
That superbly organised, brilliantly combative and altogether entirely merited 1-0 victory contradicted so many perceived truths, you wondered, in its wake, whether anyone had checked the shape of the world recently, on the grounds that it might, in fact, be flat.
Before the match, it was hard to find any kind of pundit willing to give us even a remote chance of leaving with all three points. Very few went even as far as suggesting that we might somehow cling on for a 0-0 draw - and those who did so didn't seem to mean it as a compliment to our manager. 'Maybe he'll park the bus,' people said, and thus reveal the hypocrisy of last week's verbal attack on Sam Allardyce and those tactical methods carefully copied from the golden age of steam.
Pretty much the lone voice of anticipation in this area? Gary Lineker. Credit the Match of the Day man and salted snack ambassador with announcing, well in advance of the game, his impression that Chelsea would win. Uncanny independent thinking there from the legendary spokesperson for crisps.
Mind you, Lineker needs to be careful. This is the kind of eerie, counter-cultural prescience which, a few hundred years ago, would have had him declared a witch and lobbed into the nearest available pond. Much more of it and people will be forming a cult and installing him as its worshipful leader.
The point is, City had gathered around them a sense of invincibility. And the troublesome thing about senses of invincibility is that they can very quickly become self-fulfilling. In football, mere aura will get you quite a long way. It probably accounts, all told, for at least 11 of Manchester United's Premier League titles - not the inherent greatness of those United's sides, but other people's automatic weediness when faced with the prospect of playing them.
With regard to City, I'll confess that I bought into it myself. Well in advance of Monday night's kick-off, I was already wincing and cowering and chewing the inside of my mouth and quietly hoping we'd keep the damage to a minimum.
But that's what happens, and that's exactly how it works. You see City go to Tottenham, in the game before ours, and score five, for an aggregate of 11-1 over their two league meetings. And you become dazzled. You forget the immense strength of your own players, the tactical brilliance of your own manager, the vulnerability of City to pressure, the fact that their manager has yet to prove himself at the highest level. And that it was only Tottenham.
Accordingly, perhaps the most important aspect of this victory was nailed by John Terry afterwards, when he spoke about the possibility that it might serve as a shining example to others. We went to the Etihad and won. More than that: we went there, conceded no goals, almost entirely defused City's threat, hit the frame of the goal three times, and won. Emphatically. Having already beaten them at home.
Now, obviously, we've got a far better squad than most, and a far better manager than everyone. But surely, based on our example, it's not completely beyond the bounds of possibility for at least one or two other sides who fancy themselves contenders (the likes of Liverpool, say, or Arsenal, who are always going on about their so-called title credentials, only to bottle it totally when they come up against City) to find, somewhere within themselves, the strength of character to play City and at least draw. Which would mean the title race wasn't already (another wide assumption, until Monday night) a foregone conclusion.
All that said, we accept, of course, our manager's insistence that our team is still a work in progress, merely an outside shot for the Premier League, with two firmer favourites still lying above it.
And we particularly accept the language in which he expressed these thoughts - the analogy with the little horse that still needs milk and to learn to jump. That moment of poetry really was the crowning moment on an exceptional night. The only shame was that nobody went with the headline 'MOURINHO CRIES FOAL'.
Very often, when a manager leaves or is eased out of a struggling club, that team immediately (if briefly) bursts into life and pulls out a performance that hadn't been hinted at in its recent past. What about when a director of football leaves? Is there a 'dead cat bounce' effect to be gained from that?
I only ask because Joe Kinnear has walked away from his directorial role at Newcastle, in the week before we face them at home in the Premier League - meaning, perhaps, that the team might plausibly arrive at the Bridge on Saturday feeling that the shackles have come off, or that an unhelpful weight has been shed, causing the boat to sit a little bit higher in the water.
No one really ever worked out what the parameters of Kinnear's job actually were, though it became clear that his role didn't extend to signing any players in any transfer windows and that he didn't seem especially to be helping the cause.
So, a dead cat bounce? It's only a remote chance, I confess. But let's not omit to prepare for the possibility and treat Newcastle that little bit more seriously accordingly.