Home by Christmas? Even the supremely confident Jose Mourinho would not quite make the assertion that the Premiership title is all but in Chelsea hands - yet. But after an emphatic dismantling of the visitors, in which the class divide in the élite league can rarely have been so cruelly exposed, the manager can be excused for expressing a belief that their time has come again, exactly half a century after the Blues' only other championship. "Top of the League? We're having a laugh," their followers sang, putting their own words to the familiar ridicule from opposition supporters as they increased their advantage over second-placed Everton to six points.
This was the fixture which Mourinho had been dependent upon to bolster Chelsea's leadership over Arsenal, should they have been defeated by their north London rivals last Sunday. His confidence was well-placed. While it was true that Norwich contributed in part to their own downfall with some gross aberrations which Chelsea feasted upon voraciously with first-half goals from Damien Duff, the imperious Frank Lampard and Arjen Robben, before substitute Didier Drogba got in on the act seven minutes from full-time, there was never any doubt that Mourinho's men would prevail. In truth, they have probably faced tougher encounters from the Chelsea youth team on the training ground.
Mourinho said beforehand that he hoped his foreign players could withstand the emotional strain of being apart from their families over the holiday period. If it was anyone else, you could only imagine the manager was getting his excuses in first. He hardly needs to do so.
Not for the first time this season the lack of egality in the Premiership was emphasised here. Norwich, who deal in sums that Roman Abramovich probably regards as loose change, cost an estimated £4.35m. Chelsea, whose only change from the team that forced a draw at Highbury a week ago was the replacement of the injured Ricardo Calvalho with Wayne Bridge, cost a touch over £150m. Money talks, too. Since that sole Premiership defeat by Manchester City two months ago, Chelsea have won six of their eight games, scoring25 goals in the process.
It was an ominous prospect for Norwich, yet Nigel Worthington's men arrived with belief reinforced by two recent home wins, against Southampton and Bolton. Away from home, their attack is particularly blunt - just five goals amassed before yesterday - and the first five minutes suggested an improvement on that record as Mattias Jonson, on the right, examined the defensive capabilities of Bridge. However, City were soon given a sharp reminder of Chelsea's own goalscoring statistics.
Not that you need to aid an opposition such as Chelsea in the manner that the Dane Thomas Helveg contrived to do with a careless pass which found Damien Duff lurking in a central position. The Irish international required no further invitation before striding forward and unleashing a low drive past Robert Green. It was virtually the first time that the Blues had ventured into the Norwich area. It would be far from the last.
By that time, Mathias Svensson, the fulcrum of Norwich's attacks, had been forced off after sustaining an injury during a challenge with John Terry. He was replaced by Leon McKenzie and although City looked sporadically dangerous, there was no real penetration. The best they could boast was a move which ended with David Bentley dinking the ball over Petr Cech's crossbar.
By half-time Chelsea had increased their advantage to 3-0. Just after the half-hour, Gary Docherty gave the ball away to Arjen Robben and he slipped the ball to Lampard, whose breathtaking strike from outside the area was placed beyond Green. Before the interval, Robben, Lampard and Tiago combined in an intricate move which culminated in the Dutchman volleying home.
The travelling supporters remained in boisterous mood. There could be no doubt they are determined to enjoy their season, no matter what its outcome for their club. Mourinho had his feet up in the dug-out for some of the first half. When he got to his feet at one point to debate a decision with the fourth official, Steve Bennett, the Norwich faithful behind him chorused "Sit down, shut up". He glanced behind him and merely offered a thumbs-up gesture. He could afford to be generous.
Chelsea increased the tempo after the break, although with Green in splendid form, the goals failed to materialise as the home supporters anticipated. Tiago struck one chance just over, and after Drogba came on for Eidur Gudjohnsen, he was only denied by Green from scoring a fourth for Chelsea. But it was only a matter of time before Drogba did score that elusive fourth, heading home Duff's corner.
You suspect that, had they been moved to do so, Chelsea could have heaped further embarrassment on Norwich, who, to their credit, kept their heads up. Yet this was an afternoon when even Darren Huckerby's dash on the left flank was thwarted. At one stage, the Norwich winger allowed the ball to run into touch and glowered at the pitch. Mourinho, loitering nearby, had a quiet word with him, suggesting that it was his own faulty footwork. Unlike some managers you can think of, the Chelsea manager gets away with such audacity. The awe he inspires is currently reflected in his team.Reuse content