When Thomas Tuchel declared Chelsea would “hunt” Manchester City next season, eradicating the 20-point distance currently separating the teams by transforming Chelsea into certified title rivals, there was no sniggering in the North West of England.
Instead, there was an acknowledgement from Pep Guardiola’s staff that the Stamford Bridge side represent an increasingly formidable challenge.
This sentiment was echoed at Manchester United, while Jurgen Klopp has been quite vocal about the marriage of Tuchel’s tactical nous and Chelsea’s overflow of supreme talent: great news for them, a gutting development for their traditional foes.
By deservedly reaching the FA Cup final at City’s expense at Wembley on Saturday, the eight-time winners of the tournament offered more evidence of why they hold status as the team to fear in the new campaign.
Chelsea comfortably outplayed their opponents, crushing their quadruple ambitions. Their superiority would have been emphasised in the scoreline had Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech been more clinical.
A genuine, guaranteed goal machine remains the only missing element from their make-up, which is why Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland will be heavily pursued no matter the cost and regardless of the queue of clubs attempting to recruit him.
Timo Werner has proved more of a creator with 12 assists this season rather than the man to torment opposition goalkeepers.
Chelsea have everything else: the ability to control games, the habit of not conceding high-quality chances, a surety about their defensive structure and a ridiculous collection of gifted emerging talent that is complemented by pedigree and experience.
Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Ziyech and others are nowhere near their ceiling. The chemistry between the players and the manager is still in its infancy, yet continues to produce intelligent performances and big results.
Since Tuchel’s opening fixture in charge at the end of January, they have ousted Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Everton, Porto and now City - reaching the Champions League semi-finals and the climax of the FA Cup.
At the moment, there is no great reason to disbelieve that Chelsea will have a sizeable say at the top-flight summit next season.
For now, however, they have two mega bites at bringing in silverware. That seemed inconceivable at the turn of the year. Chelsea were too open, too easy to break through under Frank Lampard.
At the end of his first season in charge, they had conceded 54 goals in the league, the club’s worst record in 23 years.
Lampard’s team were continuously undone on the counter and via set-plays.
At the point of his sacking, they had made more errors leading to goals than any other team in the division this season. No Chelsea manager since Ruud Gullit, who departed in February 1998, had overseen a worse record of successful efforts conceded per game.
Tuchel’s work in such a short space of time has been remarkable. And it could be crowned by a major trophy soon, while promising much more for the immediate future.