FA Charity Shield: Reaction

It was an off-day against Manchester United, but Chelsea are still a force for the title.

It was 7:00 AM yesterday and I didn't have the presence of mind to mute the FSC commentators. By the time I remembered what a terrible idea actually listening to those folks was, it was the second half and I had been drawn into their bordering-on-the-lusty fascination with Manchester United's newest prodigy, young Mexican Javier Hernandez, and so didn't really feel like missing out on the next nugget of wisdom the announcing team would bestow about his ascent into godhood. This meant that I was also subjected to their ideas about how a bundle of losses in pre-season friendlies (and we've managed to lose a lot) could destroy Chelsea's confidence, and that United's Charity Shield win was a huge step in bringing the Premier League trophy back to Manchester.

It is, of course, a load of nonsense. Chelsea are the League and Cup holders and one of the most formidable football teams in Europe, having lost close matches in the Champions League to the ultimate winners in each of the last two seasons. They are playing recently-promoted West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge on Saturday - the last two games there featuring fifteen Chelsea goals to no reply. Losing in the pre-season with reserve squads against other teams' backups will not worry Carlo Ancelotti and the boys in blue in the slightest, and it shouldn't worry the fans either. The games haven't mattered, and Chelsea have planned and played accordingly.

So don't worry about our form as a team. With the exception of those recovering from long-term injury (midfielders Jon Obi Mikel and Michael Essien), the first-teamers have been nowhere near the bulk of the friendlies. What might be a cause for concern is the apparent poor form of individuals - especially Ashley Cole, who Chelsea are reliant on at left back to make the diamond formation work. However, even worry there must be tempered. We've seen these guys for one game, and it was obviously one that nobody was taking seriously. There's no need to make a fuss unless Chelsea come out of the gates slow when things matter, and until Saturday we're still the Champions of England, brimming over with confidence that our reign can continue.

Only a fool would be tempted to write the team off at this stage, which isn't to say we shouldn't be treating our rivals with the respect they deserve. United looked sharp and should give us a tough go of things all year, and Arsenal should be much improved. Manchester City are haphazardly building a team as well. It's going to be a great season, but it certainly wasn't decided yesterday, no matter what some would have us believe.

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