With a visit to Stamford Bridge from the Goodison Park outfit due this weekend, we turn the clock back three seasons and recall one those games when it all came together…
A display as memorable as any firework show was staged at Stamford Bridge on 5 November 2016, when visitors Everton were blown away by a Chelsea side who were, in the words of veteran broadcaster John Motson, ‘just out of this world.’
This was only the sixth game in which Antonio Conte used his new 3-4-3 system, adopted at half-time during a 0-3 loss at Arsenal in late September, but it looked as if the team had been born to it. Sharper, neater, faster, stronger, the Londoners tore into Ronald Koeman’s men (Ross Barkley included) and two early goals inside a minute set the tone, Eden Hazard impishly involved in both.
In the 19th minute the Belgian was like quicksilver running past Ashley Williams and Seamus Coleman before finding the net across Maarten Stekelenburg. Just seconds later, Hazard wheeled away from Gareth Barry and Williams on the halfway line and flew forward, eventually feeding Pedro for a cross that Marcos Alonso buried. Never mind ‘penny for the Guy’, this was a bonfire that would melt the Toffees.
Chelsea had plenty more chances even before Diego Costa expertly volleyed in a corner soon after the break. That was 3-0, and out came the flicks and twists that wowed the crowd.
A one-two of back-heeled passes led to an exquisite second for Hazard, and then Diego Costa nutmegged Phil Jagielka to set the winger free yet again. The man of the match’s hat-trick shot was parried but Pedro followed up exuberantly to complete the 5-0 drubbing.
With that, the Blues went top for the first time since winning the title 18 months earlier. Conte lauded his ‘fantastic’ team but emphasised the hard work still needed over a long season. It fell to BBC commentator Motson to provide the purple prose.
‘This was the best 90-minute performance I have ever seen in the Premier League,’ he marvelled. ‘I put it above anything I saw from Arsenal when they were at their best. I put it above anything I saw from Manchester United. Because this was football on another planet.
‘It was incredible. If that had been a live game we would still be talking about it in three weeks’ time. It was amazing. Chelsea’s touch-play, their movement, their dominance, their finishing. There wasn’t a weakness because you saw all their strengths in that 90 minutes.’
The extra-terrestrial Blues duly won the league for the sixth time at the Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion, in the May that followed.
By Rick Glanvill
Read: Our preview of this season's meeting