For the first time since 2006, September will dawn without Chelsea sitting on top of the Premier League. Normally faster away than Usain Bolt (who was just too quick off the blocks yesterday), they have been sluggish not so much in gathering points as in the manner of it. A difficult opening game at Stoke has been followed by laboured home victories against West Bromwich Albion (2-1) and now the newly promoted Norwich City. Andre Villas-Boas, keen to win stylishly, has been reduced to praising tenacity, commitment and desire; all worthy attributes but not the reasons why Roman Abramovich shelled out on an extravagant compensation fee and wages.
Patience is required all round. The owner, having bought himself a pet centre-forward in January, has backed his new manager all the way in pursuit of Luka Modric and a crop of younger players.
Juan Mata from Valencia and Anderlecht's Romelu Lukaku produced impressive late cameos on Saturday, after which Chelsea announced the arrival of the Mexican Under-20 international midfielder Ulises Davila.
Yet the spine of the team remains an experienced one and as one of the old guard, Didier Drogba, was being checked out for concussion in hospital on Saturday evening, another, Frank Lampard, was dispensing some worldly wisdom on the stuttering start and the need to hasten slowly.
"Last year we flew out of the blocks and were winning 6-0 [twice] and then we blew up," he said. "It might be quite nice for people not to talk about us and talk about the fact that other teams have spent more than us. That leaves it to us to prove people wrong. There's certainly room for us to improve on this."
Despite admiring the new talent, he is also keen to stress the continuing value of his own generation: "Of course it's exciting for us to see top players like Mata and Lukaku coming in. They bring a freshness and a different angle to the team and they both came on and showed their quality. I've seen Mata in the Spanish league and he's a fantastic player, great first touch and great awareness. We saw that in his little cameo and we saw what a powerhouse Lukaku is. He's been a real breath of fresh air in training.
"But people talk too much about age. You can't buy experience. We are introducing youth with the signings we've made and some of the players we have here already. I know for a fact the manager won't be scared to throw them in. Age is something people throw at you when you have a bad result. It's an easy excuse but the answer will be seen at the end of the season."
Playing in the centre of midfield, Lampard set up Jose Bosingwa for his beautifully struck opening goal, then converted a crucial penalty after John Ruddy had been sent off for bringing down Ramires. In between times, Hilario's rush of blood allowed Norwich an equaliser neatly lobbed in by Grant Holt but Mata's confident start was rounded off by a goal in added time.
Scorers: Chelsea Bosingwa 6, Lampard (pen) 82, Mata 90. Norwich Holt 63. Subs: Chelsea Mata 8 (Malouda, 67), Lukaku (Torres, 83), Anelka 7 (Drogba, 67). Norwich Pilkington 6 (Whitbread, 30), Morison 6 (Hoolahan, 60), Rudd (C Martin, 81). Booked: Chelsea Bosingwa, Torres. Norwich Crofts, Naughton. Sent off: Norwich Ruddy (80). Man of the match Naughton. Match rating 7/10. Possession: Chelsea 67% Norwich 33%. Referee M Jones (Cheshire). Attendance 41,765.Reuse content