Sixteen hours there. Eighteen hours back. Time was already of the essence this preseason thanks to two wasted months in transitioning from Antonio Conte to Maurizio Sarri before Chelsea had contractual obligations to fulfill with a weekend trip to Australia — in as much as a trip halfway around the world can be a weekend trip.
That commitment combined with dire warnings (i.e. urgings of patience) from Sarri and Zola and Fàbregas just added to the palpable gloom that’s lurked behind any semi-serious examination of Chelsea’s situation for some time now, despite the (for now) surface-level promise of Sarri and the gleeful gazumping of Manchester City for Jorginho.
Eight months after Michael Emenalo left, we still don’t have any kind of replacement for our football director — Gianfranco Zola’s remit appears to be purely football-facing. We face losing two of the best players in the world, a goalkeeper and a forward, in the same window. Willian’s in a snit and may be surplus to requirements. Our transfer activity proceeds at a pace that makes glaciers look hopped-up on caffeine. And time is running out to fix those problems, with 16 days remaining in the transfer window and only a couple more after that for the first league match of the 2018-19 season.
And yet, as Chelsea touch down back in London, we appear to be bringing back some real positives from Down Under.
In just four days and change, Sarri crammed in seven training sessions plus a game. Videos from a public session thrilled. The first half against Perth Glory showed that some of his lessons are being absorbed, and we look like an exciting team.
We discovered what we thought we already knew: that we have young talents waiting to take their place in the ranks.
Young attacker Callum Hudson-Odoi in particular caught the eye. Just look at his combination of strength, speed, touch and determination in winning this ball and taking into the danger zone as he were auditioning for the Top Gun sequel.
Plus his lovely skill on this assist to Pedro for the game’s only goal.
And we saw that, as it turns out, we hired the perfect tutor for him. Gianfranco Zola helping to nurture the next generation of attacking talent is truly a dream proposition.
Meanwhile, Jorginho did exactly what we’d hoped he would do. He controlled the game by keeping the ball, constantly moving within our midfield and spotting the penetrating passes to open up the defense.
And we had reason to feel good about the men who represent our club.
We learned that not only is Jorginho a top passer, he’s a top man too. He gets it. It was only his first week at the club, yet he already ensured that every fan who came out to the signing session had a chance to not leave empty-handed. The good vibes are infectious.
Hectic scenes at the #CFCinPerth signing session at Rebel Sport. The players were told time was up but Jorginho insisted they stayed until all fans had an opportunity for a pic and a signature. Top bloke pic.twitter.com/8Jwfgq6EwL— Neil Sherwin (@neilsherwin) July 21, 2018
We also re-learned a lesson we already knew by rote: that David Luiz has a very big heart and shares it with the world. Alongside Tiemoué Bakayoko and Ethan Ampadu, everyone’s favorite curly-haired character took up 4-year-old Hudson McCarthy’s invitation for an “authentic Aussie BBQ” at his house and the results, as one might image, were adorable.
Toss in a promising outing by young centre-forward Tammy Abraham, Ross Barkley’s first decisive game in a Chelsea shirt and a tidily-taken goal by a Pedro who looks up for it in Sarrismo, and the sky clears. Rays of sunshine hint at their existence. Dare we say it, hope stirs?
Maybe it’s just the jet lag.