How quickly things can change. Last season, Chelsea were top of the Premier League for the majority of the season, eventually breaking away from their challengers to claim the title a few weeks before the season even ended. Eden Hazard was far and away the league's top player, leading to comparisons to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas were hailed as the smartest signings of the season, and Jose Mourinho earned the plaudits as the best manager in the league, all deservedly so.
Fast forward a few months to early October and things were drastically different. Chelsea were flirting with the relegation spots, Hazard's form had fallen off badly to the point of being dropped from the starting lineup, Fabregas and Matic looked considerably older and more lethargic, and Mourinho appeared devoid of ideas. The master of the media had lost control, embroiled in a battle over his role in the Eva Carneiro controversy and overstepping his boundaries with a seven-minute post-match rant that saw him suspended and fined by the FA.
But remember, things can change quickly. Adjustments to the lineup, some enforced by injury and others necessitated by a lack of form and results, saw a new-look side trotted out to face Aston Villa last week, and while the 2-0 victory wasn't of the same ilk as the almost effortless ease with which Chelsea dominated their opponents last season, it was a glimpse into the capability for the Blues to regain their footing. As if to support this argument, a single victory propelled Chelsea from 16th up to 12th, just six points behind the last of the coveted Champions League places.
Sitting in that hotly contested fourth spot at the moment are Chelsea's Week 10 opponents and West London neighbors West Ham United, who have themselves undergone massive changes in the months since the end of the last campaign. Sam Allardyce has left the league and since returned at the helm of Sunderland, with Premier League newcomer Slaven Bilic taking the reigns. The Hammers have taken down the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City on their travels this season. Dimitri Payet is in the early conversation for best signing of the season, and may even find himself amongst the nominees for Player of the Year if his current form is sustained.
You see where this is going by now, I'm sure. A win for Chelsea puts them a mere three points--just one victory--behind their cross-town rivals, and three points closer to the Top 4. A loss for West Ham surely knocks them from their lofty perch, as well, and we may soon see the natural order of the table restored. How quickly things can change.
Let us know your predictions for this match and the rest of the Saturday fixtures in the comments, and share your fantasy teams for this week as well. As always, good luck and happy chatting!