After spending the thick end of £50m on right-backs in the five years since Roman Abramovich's revolution, Chelsea finally appear to have found one who can do the job.
Jose Bosingwa is the most expensive of a long list at £16m, his recent performances nevertheless prompting the thought that when Jose Mourinho spent £13.2m on taking Paulo Ferreira with him from Porto, he hired the wrong one.
Mourinho had signed Bosingwa for the Portugese club from Boavista, where he was originally a midfield player. After Ferreira's departure to Stamford Bridge along with the manager, Bosingwa flourished at right-back and last summer played regularly under Luiz Felipe Scolari at Euro 2008. Installed as first-choice this season ahead of Ferreira and another recent signing, Juliano Belletti, he gave an outstanding performance again at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, scoring the first goal and setting up the second as Leon Cort's error from his cross allowed Nicolas Anelka to seal a sixth successive away victory.
"He's a super player," said Ray Wilkins, the old hand who has returned to Chelsea as a coach following Steve Clarke's departure to West Ham. "He's settled in remarkably well. He's prepared to go forward and to get himself back and his work ethic is quite superb." Scolari, unlike Mourinho, wants his full-backs to attack and if £16m seems an awful lot of money to pay for one, Wilkins points out that it is an increasingly important position these days: "Full-backs in modern-day football get a lot of time on the ball so they're vitally important in how the team plays. If you have got people who are prepared to work and who can also handle the football, as ours can, then you've got every opportunity of creating far more opportunities for the strikers."
Like most of Chelsea's foreign imports, Bosingwa will have found Stoke's unsophisticated approach something new, but he remained unfazed. The home team's manager, Tony Pulis, regretted only that that approach was less full-on than usual, because Rory Delap's long throws were absent and Ricardo Fuller could play for no more than the last 40 minutes. Fuller's arrival in the front line as a substitute coincided with Stoke's brightest spell, in which Cort's header was cleared off the line by John Obi Mikel. "It's two weapons that are difficult for us to lose," Pulis said.
"It would have been nice to have played Ric from the start because he's our talisman up front, he's different, he's got that pace. But the last two games we've played, the players have done themselves and the football club proud." The first of those was a goalless draw at Liverpool, which brought an unexpected point to keep Stoke in touch with the other early strugglers. Chelsea, meanwhile, unbeaten in the League since last December, have conceded only three goals in six League games and look unlikely to make the sort of slip Arsenal did against a promoted side on Saturday, allowing their London rivals back to the top of the table. They will take some shifting.
Goals: Bosingwa (36) 0-1; Anelka (76) 0-2.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Griffin, Abdoulaye Faye, Cort, Higginbotham; Lawrence (Tonge, 64), Olofinjana, Diao, Cresswell; Sidibe (Amdy Faye, 80), Kitson (Fuller, 52). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Whelan, Soares, Sonko.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Ballack (Ferreira, 89), Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Anelka, h-t), Drogba (Belletti, 72), Malouda. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk) Ivanovic, Sinclair, Bridge.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Stoke City Griffin, Cresswell; Chelsea Malouda.
Man of the match: Lampard.