When you have a side like that topping the table, but not quite looking like champions, it tells you just what an enigmatic season we're having.
Roberto Di Matteo's crew may be rolling along nicely domestically, but they've been beaten in Europe by Atletico Madrid and Shaktar Donetsk this season, on both occasions in a manner more resounding than the final scoreline suggests.
And yet here they are, four points clear of today's visitors, Manchester United, in a clash that should go some way towards telling us what the balance of power actually looks like in English football.
You wonder whether if Di Matteo was a bit more of a self-promoter, a smidgeon more media-friendly and perhaps had a few more friends in high places, we would not think of Chelsea differently.
Instead, to many, he remains Mr Interim, a fixer handed the reins first to clean up the Andre Villas-Boas mess, and then kept on to keep Pep Guardiola's seat warm once the great man's "sabbatical" is over.
Yet the table suggests Chelsea are for real, as does the wage bill and summer expenditure. Sure, you can poke holes. Having this version of Fernando Torres as your finisher is a bit like getting Richard Bacon to run the final leg of a 4x100 relay that includes Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell: you assume that by the time he gets the baton the lead will be so great that everything will be fine, but you're probably better off with somebody else in his place. And, yes, for a team that plays two central midfielders, there isn't too much depth there, given Frank Lampard's 34-year-old legs.
But the reality is that everyone has weaknesses. Manchester City, for one, need to find some kind of balance between Roberto Mancini's flights of tactical fancy and his squad's understanding of different systems. (You can't teach an old dog new tricks, nor can you teach a dull dog new tricks, but, then again, it's the manager's responsibility to know which dogs can be taught and which ones can't.) It appears it will take Tottenham a long time to absorb Villas-Boas's message (and a sulky Emannuel Adebayor is a ticking timebomb), while the brilliant Santi Cazorla can only do so much to paper over Arsenal's evident cracks. Everton, West Ham and West Brom look like interlopers in the higher reaches of the table and Liverpool, even without Brendan Rodgers reminding us endlessly, are a work in progress.
Which leaves United, but their list of ills dwarfs Chelsea's right now. There are the injuries at the back – Chris Smalling and Phil Jones haven't played a minute this season, while Nemanja Vidic, who missed six months last season, has broken down again, which forces Sir Alex to shift Michael Carrick into defence, weakening two areas at once.
There's the musical chairs between goalkeepers, never a healthy situation. There is this new-fangled diamond, which seems created exclusively as a way to shoehorn Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and another striker into the line-up, but which seems hardly ideal for a team short on numbers in central midfield (and with an overstock of highly paid wide men with a sizeable sulk potential).
Defeat at Stamford Bridge would leave United seven points back. We've seen them make up bigger deficits in the past, so it wouldn't necessarily be reason to panic. But it would add another brick to the foundations that Di Matteo – against all odds and with little belief, apart from his own – is trying to lay at Chelsea. And, having already beaten Arsenal, Spurs and Newcastle this season, it might just give him a little more ammo in the seemingly impossible fight for Roman Abramovich's long-term endorsement.
Making a statement – the way a number of players did last weekend, refusing to wear Kick it Out T-shirts – is fine. But it tends to carry more weight if it is accompanied by some kind of sacrifice or taking of responsibility. The complaint is that Kick It Out doesn't do enough. The subtext is that it doesn't do enough because it's funded by the Football Association, Premier League and PFA and therefore is quick to rail against racist chanting in foreign lands, but slow to address domestic issues so as not to upset the guys paying its bills.
Well, if that's the case, here's an idea. Kick It Out consists of five people and is run on a budget of £300,000 a year. If the Ferdinand brothers sacrificed one week's wages each, we'd be more than halfway to meeting the budget of a truly independent anti-racism watchdog. I'm sure, there are plenty of other footballers, black or otherwise, who would be happy to chip in a few bob for a genuinely independent body.
When you put your rear end – or your cash – on the line, your words and actions will speak that much louder.
With La Liga drowning in red ink and Serie A still deep in its own self-dug hole, the Bundesliga is firmly entrenched as the thinking fan's Premier League alternative. And why not? The German model is exciting and, above all, fan-friendly, with low prices, attendances that dwarf England's, and strict controls in place to ward off Glazers, Kroenkes and assorted other foreign carpetbaggers.
On top of that, in the week that six of seven Bundesliga sides won in Europe, we're also seeing that they're mighty good at football. But before we declare the German model the only way to go, let's bear in mind that it works in no small part because we're talking about the biggest, wealthiest nation in Europe here.
That allows for huge sponsorship deals and sizeable corporate gate receipts, which, in turn, subsidise affordable tickets for the rank-and-file. They also never went through a laissez-faire Thatcherite period, meaning they're less free-market obsessed. Oh, and the 2006 World Cup meant they got a gaggle of new or refurbished state-of-the-art grounds, mostly at government expense.
When all those conditions are in place, sure, the German model works pretty well. But it's definitely not one-size-fits-all.
Contextual targeting label: