Tiemoue Bakayoko was not expected to make his Chelsea debut until mid-September after a knee operation at the end of the 2016/17 campaign, but Blues fans were in for a nice surprise when Antonio Conte named his team on Sunday afternoon.
The former Monaco man was picked in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante in the role occupied by Nemanja Matic last season, and showed what he can bring to the Chelsea side. The key difference between the two players is the dynamic runs and dribbling of the Frenchman.
His powerful strides through the middle of the park saw him shrugging off Tottenham challenges as he waltzed through their midfield like a knife through butter, then looking to pick out Alvaro Morata in the box only for the move to collapse.
That was a clear indication of the kind of game that the 23-year-old will bring to the Premier League as his energy and dynamism caused problems every time he looked to move forwards and didn’t allow Tottenham a moment’s peace when they were in possession.
However, there were signs of where he can improve too. His foolish and needless challenge on Dele Alli was one of six fouls conceded and led to Michy Batshuayi’s own goal which pulled Spurs back level late in the game. That kind of naivety reflected where Bakayoko will have to learn and improve his game.
Being fair to Bakayoko, that did come late in the game as he played 90 minutes despite not having had a pre-season. Having gone under the knife for a knee operation in May at the end of the 2016/17 campaign, this was his first run out in a match scenario and it came as a surprise to see him play the full 90 minutes given the situation.
It may not have been a perfect debut for Chelsea’s summer signing, but it was a clear sign of things to come. If Chelsea can get the best out of a fit Bakayoko, he could add a whole other dimension to their game with his runs forward. His defensive contribution showed that Nemanja Matic will not be missed, but his experience may be, in the short term at the least.