Perfect Pedro gives Chelsea blueprint for crucial fixtures
Chelsea 5 Newcastle Utd 1
Roger East's whistle may as well have been a gunshot. From the second Newcastle United kicked off, Chelsea were all over them - a rabid blur of blue shirts, sprinting, hunting, devouring.
"We killed them in 20 minutes," Willian said later. And at the front of the dinner queue, with a napkin tucked into his collar, is Pedro.
Nine Chelsea players have played more minutes than Pedro, but none encapsulates their season quite as poetically.
The surge of optimism. The multiple false starts. The palpable lack of fitness. The regrets and the reprisals. Now, perhaps, the rebirth.
There was a certain symbolism in the sight of Chelsea's star summer signing leading the cavalry charge against a painfully inadequate Newcastle, skewering them with two goals. Like Pedro, Chelsea are hoping this can be the start of something.
It seems curious that a man who has won virtually every big prize in the game could still have something to prove. But in leaving Barcelona - his "comfort zone", as Jose Mourinho described it - Pedro admitted as much himself.
He wanted to test himself in a different league. He wanted to sample a different culture.
You can see that ruthless ambition on the pitch: the hustle and the hunger of a man desperate to show he is more than Lionel Messi's bag carrier.
At his peak, Pedro plays like the hero in an action movie. He sprints to close down the ball. He sprints to help out his full-back. He sprints to start counter-attacks. He probably sprints to the corner shop.
Every stride oozes impatience - the impatience, perhaps, of a 28-year-old who suspects he will not be this fast for very much longer.
Last month, Pedro talked about adapting to the Premier League. "In Spain, you always try to give the ball to someone in the middle of the pitch, and they build up the play," he said. "But here, teams play longer passes to stretch the game."
The flip side, however, is that quicker transitions and longer passes allow dynamic players more opportunities to win the ball.
And for all Chelsea's problems, Pedro has been doing that more this season (2.86 ball recoveries per 90 minutes) than he did at Barcelona.
There his tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes were 2010-11, 2.12; 2011-12, 2.29; 2012-13, 1.81; 2013-14, 2.04; 2014-15, 1.65; 2015-16, 2.86.
This was, in many ways, the consummate Pedro performance. His first goal came from lurking at the edge of his own penalty area as Newcastle took a free-kick, barrelling forward as the ball was cleared, intercepting a slack pass on the halfway line, and racing clear. His second was a more conventional poacher's finish.
And it could have been a hat-trick. In the fifth minute, as Diego Costa's shot trickled towards the line, he could easily have belted the ball into the empty net and claimed the goal. But he did not. That reputation for selflessness is well-deserved.
"He is always working very hard, but now the efficiency is growing as well, and that's encouraging," said Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink.
"He has great responsibility to work hard for the team defensively, but also it paid off that he made his goals."
And so perhaps, like Pedro, Chelsea are just beginning to warm up.
This is, as Gary Cahill put it, "a massive week", with an FA Cup tie against Manchester City on Sunday following a trip to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League tomorrow night. They are likely to be without John Terry, who limped off with a suspected hamstring injury.
Four years ago, the disappointment of a poor league campaign fuelled a remarkable triumph in Munich.
"I remember thinking at the time that we were going to have to win this to get back into the Champions League," recalled Cahill. "It was about the next game and the next game. We have to prove that we're a good team and good players on the biggest stage."
With the greatest of respect to Newcastle, it soon became apparent that they were not going to provide that.
In fairness, Newcastle kept running in a lost cause.
So did Pedro. In the 88th minute, with his side 5-0 up, he could be seen sprinting towards the corner flag to win the ball.
Ahead of this pivotal week, Chelsea could do a lot worse than to take their cue from him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)