Chelsea, for the first time under Maurizio Sarri, have blinked. Their pristine record was checked across the capital, the visitors running aground on West Ham United’s industry on a day when Eden Hazard’s flicks and darts did not quite come off, the drive through midfield came only in fits and starts, and when the centres lofted into the middle tended to find N’Golo Kanté, at 5ft 6in, rather than a towering Olivier Giroud. It all felt rather forced and awkward.
Maybe that delayed flight back from Thessaloniki, delayed until Friday afternoon, had left them jaded after Europa League exertions. Unquestionably they encountered a West Ham side who were effectively and efficiently organised by Declan Rice, the teenager who had spent seven years at Chelsea’s youth academy, sitting in front of a rugged back four with tenacious teammates contributing at his side. Manuel Pellegrini’s hosts should take huge heart from making life so uncomfortable for perceived title contenders.