Chelsea's newcomers make strong first impression against rivals Spurs
To say that Chelsea's 2-1 victory over Spurs was welcome would be a huge understatement. Beating a title rival and local neighbour was the perfect tonic to a week dominated by talk of crisis and internal strife at the home of the defending champions. But it was equally welcome as it featured all three of Chelsea's major summer signings to date starting a match for the first time together.
But the season is still in its nascent and unpredictable phase, and it is too early to cast definitive judgement on Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko. Nevertheless, first impressions can often last, and for supporters it is impossible not to cultivate instant opinions.
Of the three, the focus has largely been on Morata, an understandable situation given his status as Chelsea's club-record signing at an initial £58 million. Having taken the field in three matches already, including the Community Shield, the Spain international has already experienced the highs and lows of what football has to offer. A decent chance fired wide and a skewed penalty against Arsenal. He followed with a goal and an assist in the defeat to Burnley before missing an absolute sitter in the opening exchanges with Spurs.
There have been clear glimpses of Morata's talent that, once the kinks have been ironed out, should prove increasingly valuable to his teammates. His touch has been excellent and has put Michy Batshuayi's relative clumsiness into perspective. Morata's movement has also been impressive; his turn of pace has caught the eye, especially when he took on and outstripped swift Tottenham centre-back Toby Alderweireld. Morata's intelligent flicked header for David Luiz's goal on the opening day also demonstrated excellent awareness and the ability to link with others.
On the flip side, it is clear that he is still getting up to speed with the English game, something that was highlighted by the number of times he lost the ball against Tottenham when dwelling for a fraction too long. On other occasions his quick feet saw him escape from tight situations, which suggests that he will adapt to his new surroundings sooner rather than later.
Rudiger has also featured three times; he has started both Premier League games to date, and it is safe to say that he has not found life in England straightforward. The chaos that engulfed the team in the first half against Burnley saw him caught out of position on several occasions. He looked completely out of sorts when briefly paired as a two at centre-back with Luiz.
There was a definite improvement from the Germany international against Spurs, though he was troubled by Harry Kane's movement throughout the first half. In his defence, there is no disgrace in struggling to cope with the division's best striker, and Rudiger's upward trajectory after the break indicated that he was starting to learn from his mistakes. A player with an imposing physique and a rugged style of play, Rudiger appears to have the necessary attributes to thrive in the Premier League even if a few rough edges still need smoothing off.
Of the three, Bakayoko has had the least amount of game time, only making his debut in the Tottenham win due to his recovery from keyhole knee surgery. His display on Sunday bodes extremely well for the future, especially since he missed preseason training and likely lacks some sharpness and fitness. He made an immediate impression in the opening few seconds of the match when he received the ball and shrugged off Mousa Dembele before laying the ball off.
At 6-0 and with a muscular frame, Bakayoko also has the natural power to be able to succeed in England and showed it often throughout the game. Both defensively solid and with the drive to get forward and supplement the attack, Bakayoko appears to possess the characteristics of a genuine box-to-box midfielder not seen at Stamford Bridge since the days of Michael Essien.
The former Monaco man was certainly liberated by having two other midfield players alongside him, so perhaps he will curtail his attacking forays in the future when the system reverts to 3-4-3. But it is still encouraging to know that Bakayoko has more than one string to his bow. One performance is the smallest of sample sets, though given his good use of the ball and positional sense, he has arguably made the brightest start of the three signings.
But as the saying goes, one swallow does not make a summer. After all, Andriy Shevchenko scored a wonderful goal on his Chelsea debut against Liverpool in the Community Shield before enduring a torrid time in West London. All three new arrivals will need to time to adjust and acclimate, which will naturally require some patience from supporters. Overall, though, the outlook for each looks positive.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.