Continuing a week of convincing scorelines, today we scored our biggest win under Rafa to go top of the Premiership for the first time under his management. Granted, it was only Derby County, and even a stuttering Spurs managed to hit four past them, but these are the kind of teams we've sometimes struggled to break down in the past, especially without Gerrard.
In the absence of Stevie, Alonso got a chance to run the midfield (with Mascherano tidying up for him) and - like Lampard - seems to play better without Gerrard over-shadowing him. I'm not sure Alonso meant his 40 yard curling free-kick to open the scoring - I think it was intended for the head of Kuyt and, like a cross-shot, fortuitously went in without that touch. Regardless, however, it was a well-struck kick and Kuyt's role shouldn't be underestimated - with him hovering, the 'keeper couldn't commit either way in case he took a touch. (I saw RvN perform a similar move once for Man Utd - made the goal without touching the ball).
I don't want to dwell too much on the goals, but it was good to see Babel notch his first - though whether it owed more to his skill or two Derby defenders tackling each other I'm not sure - and Torres confirmed his general all-round ability to take balls into his feet, over the top or in the air. Last season our strikers could manage all of those between them, but this season we have it in one packet, and three goals so far isn't bad for a settling in period.
Just because we're top of the table - at least until Chelsea play tomorrow - I don't want to get carried away though. Last time we were top - November 2001 or 02 - was following a great start but we then collapsed and went on a disastrous run (after Dudek allowed Forlan to score twice). Under Rafa we've tended to have a slow start rather than a November slump (which had been our previous habit), but we've still tended to have good and bad runs a bit. Hopefully rotation will keep the squad fit and sharp and mean we can keep on producing results like this; however I've yet to see how we'd react to going behind or really having to grind out a win, and those are the qualities that separate champions over the 38 game marathon.