This was only ever meant to be a season of transition for Chelsea as the club recovered from the turmoil of last season, and allowed their new manager Maurizio Sarri the time to settle in to English football.
But after eleven games Chelsea find themselves believing they might actually stage a genuine title challenge, as they sit in second place just two points behind Manchester City at the top of the table.
Chelsea have been a revelation under Sarri, playing attractive attacking football to win eight games and draw the other three to remain one of only three teams yet to lose in the league alongside Liverpool and City.
But while their title rivals can each boast a reliable supply of goals – City have Sergio Aguero, and Liverpool have Mo Salah – Chelsea have to make do with the more modest talents of Alvaro Morata leading their forward line.
It might seem churlish to criticise the Spanish striker in the wake of his two goals against Crystal Palace in Chelsea’s 3-1 win last weekend, but it is hard to escape the conclusion there remains an overwhelming brittleness about him.
Even against Palace the lasting memory of Morata was not his two goals, but rather the chance he spurned to claim a hat-trick in the final minutes.
With a clear run at goal, and having already scored twice, he should have calmly taken his chance, but he suddenly became consumed with nerves, and tamely lobbed the ball in to the Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy’s waiting arms.
His haunted looked of frustration after failing to convert this chance revealed he might not yet be over the self-doubt that has undermined him since arriving in southwest London last summer.
“He’s a little bit fragile from the mental point of view,” Sarri said last weekend. “But he’s very young. I think he can improve, improve very fast.”
Chelsea’s previous title successes have been driven by a prolific goals scorers; Frank Lampard in 2005 and 2006, Didier Drogba in 2010, and Diego Costa in 2015, but Morata isn’t of the same inherent quality, no matter how much his manager hopes he will improve.
The former Real Madrid and Juventus striker will certainly contribute goals, but he is unlikely to do it at the rate required to bring Chelsea their fifth Premier League title.
Morata has failed to even win a place in Chelsea’s top ten attacking players from the statistics collated by Twelve, and finds himself stranded as low as thirteenth place, even behind the entire Chelsea back four.
He has so far failed to prove he has the ruthlessness that is routinely found in the truly great strikers.
Often great in the air with his head, but only good back down on earth with his feet, Morata’s positional sense can let him down. He also fails to attack the areas he should in the penalty area, though he is not helped by his Chelsea team-mates who don’t look for him enough. Maybe they don’t trust him?
Ahead of this weekend’s game against Everton at Stamford Bridge, and after five goals in his last six games, Morata’s confidence should be high, but it remains doubtful he can maintain this for the next six months.
Everton should be a good test of Chelsea’s title credentials after winning four of their last five games in the Premier League, with their only defeat being a narrow one to Manchester United two weeks ago.
Marco Silva is showing just why Everton were so keen and patient to make him their manager by creating a side that looks to attack, fuelled by the goals of Richarlison, who has scored six goals in seven league games so far this season.
The Brazilian scored twice in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Brighton at Goodison Park, and is confounding those who doubted he was worth the £50 million Everton paid in the summer.
Which of these in form strikers steps up again on Sunday could well decide this game, but over the course of a full season Chelsea have to be skeptical that Morata could lead them all the way to the title.