BURNLEY, England — Three quick points on Burnley 0-4 Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.
1. No Hazard, no problem for Blues
Deprived of the Premier League’s best player, Chelsea demonstrated there is much more to Maurizio Sarri’s revolution than the best form of Eden Hazard’s career with a convincing rout of Burnley at Turf Moor.
Hazard, still suffering from the back problem he sustained during a bruising encounter with Manchester United last time out, did not travel to Lancashire with the squad but after a rough start, Chelsea did not greatly miss their superstar.
David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger weathered a barrage of Burnley crosses, Jorginho put the game in his metronomic grip and Ross Barkley showed again why he has displaced Mateo Kovacic in Sarri’s strongest midfield.
But it was the performance of Alvaro Morata that will give Chelsea’s head coach the greatest encouragement.
Scorer of two goals prior to the October international break, the Spain international stood up to the physical challenge of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski and presented a constant threat with his movement, particularly in combination with the lively Willian.
Burnley were warned in the 21st minute when Morata slipped Willian clear into the left channel to curl a low shot off Joe Hart’s far post. A minute later, the striker raced on to Barkley’s perfectly disguised and weighted through ball and poked it beyond Hart with one instinctive touch.
The second half brought a new level of ferocity to Burnley’s pressing, but Jorginho and Kante slickly passed around them. Barkley, 20 yards out and with passing options all around him, found the bottom corner with his left foot to make the game safe.
A third swiftly followed, putting a deserved layer of gloss on what must be considered, in the context of Hazard’s absence, Chelsea’s most impressive performance of the season. Willian cut in from the left and found the same bottom corner as Barkley to complete a fine afternoon’s work.
There was still time for a fourth from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, an early substitute for the injured Pedro, to carry on where the academy product left off with a hat trick against BATE in the Europa League on Thursday.
2. Morata shows promise after Sarri faith
Sarri has retained his patience and trust in Chelsea’s strikers against much of the available evidence this season and though his finishing could again be considered wasteful at Turf Moor, Morata’s all-action performance supplied timely evidence his head coach could yet be rewarded.
Too often during his long goal droughts Morata has offered nothing to Chelsea, seemingly content to drift through matches in a self-pitying haze. There was none of that here though as he refused to wilt even in the face of significant physical intimidation from James Tarkowski, who was lucky not to be sent off.
Morata provided the focal point that Olivier Giroud can usually be relied upon to offer with his back to goal, but also timed his runs behind the Burnley defence to perfection. Chelsea’s passers found him time and again, and he might have had a first half hat trick had Hart not been so alert and agile.
One of only two players on the pitch at a sunny Turf Moor wearing gloves, Morata can look like a particularly soft touch in matches like this, and the frequency with which he found himself on the ground quickly made him the target of the home crowd.
But such surface details are irrelevant when there is so much substance to Morata’s play. This is the striker Chelsea need him to be every week.
3. Has Dyche taken Burnley as far as possible?
There always felt like an element of smoke and mirrors in Burnley’s remarkable seventh-placed finish in the Premier League last season — not least because they scored just 36 goals in 38 games and conceded a miserly 39.
They are more than halfway to that goals against tally after just 10 games, and have won only two of 17 matches in all competitions this season. Regression to the mean is as brutal as it is inevitable.
It’s not hard to see why goals remain a problem. Aside from Burnley’s lack of individual quality in the final third there is a broader lack of imagination; once Chelsea demonstrated they could head away a succession of crosses they never looked in danger of defeat at Turf Moor.
Hart made some impressive saves but, not for the first time, was left hopelessly exposed by defenders who at times appeared more pre-occupied by proving their macho credentials against Morata than the more cerebral task of plugging the holes Chelsea kept finding.
Sean Dyche deserves the formidable reputation he has earned by building Burnley into awkward, established Premier League opponents. Only a fool would bet against them staying up again quite comfortably, but it is difficult to see where the potential for growth lies beyond that.
We are into the sixth year of the Dyche era and he has nothing left to prove at Burnley. Is he ready to challenge himself on a grander stage, or has he grown comfortable? The question is getting harder to ignore.