After investing so much energy into building the attack around Romelu Lukaku Chelsea found a way to play without their £97.5m striker. Mason Mount accepted the extra responsibility with typical eagerness, scoring his first hat-trick in a Chelsea shirt, and Thomas Tuchel could also take satisfaction from Callum Hudson-Odoi capitalising on the absence of Lukaku, Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner by producing a driven, skilful display in his favourite position.
One down, 249 to go as far as Hudson-Odoi is concerned. Before this game Tuchel had challenged him to deliver on a consistent basis, telling the 20-year-old winger he will have turned a corner only once he plays 250 good games in a row, and the tough love drew a positive reaction.
Hudson-Odoi was a creative, dangerous presence on the left and his first goal since 10 January was one of several positives for Chelsea as they cemented their hold on first place by putting seven past Norwich City, who already look certain to make a swift return to the Championship.
Norwich, who finished with 10 men after Ben Gibson received a second booking for a silly foul on Reece James, were powerless to stop Chelsea recording their biggest win under Tuchel. Daniel Farke’s side are rooted to the bottom of the table, with two points from nine games. It summed up their plight when Michael Oliver, the VAR, spotted that their goalkeeper, Tim Krul, had stepped off his line when he stopped Mount from making it 6-0 with a late penalty.
Mount would not pass up a second opportunity and the 22-year-old ended up with the match ball after completing his hat-trick in added time, finishing smartly after fine work from another academy product, Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
It had been relentless from Chelsea, who adapted to the absence of the injured Lukaku, Pulisic and Werner by giving others a chance to shine. Mount, who moved on from a lethargic run of form by opening his account for the campaign, was not alone in impressing as the European champions adjusted their attacking formula without Lukaku. There was a graceful, silky performance from Kai Havertz as a false 9 and Tuchel reserved plenty of praise for Hudson-Odoi, who was under pressure to step up after being handed his third start in the league this season.
Tuchel was quickly on Hudson-Odoi’s back, hammering him for failing to break into the box early on. The demands at this level are unforgiving and there have been times in the last two years when Hudson-Odoi has given the impression that he does not possess the drive to last at Chelsea, who rested N’Golo Kanté because of muscle tightness.
The frustration is that Hudson-Odoi, who has often played at right wing-back under Tuchel, is one of the most gifted youngsters in Europe. He can beat full-backs for fun, as he did when he sparked the move for Chelsea’s opening goal, and Tuchel enjoyed the slick finish that put the game out of Norwich’s reach after 18 minuti.
It was a beautiful goal, made by a gorgeous pass from Mateo Kovacic, although Norwich were all over the place as Hudson-Odoi beat their back three. The offside trap was a mess and Hudson-Odoi had time to open up his body before guiding a low right-footed shot past Krul.
Earlier he had caused problems with his rapid footwork, wriggling clear on the left before hanging a cross into the middle. Norwich failed to clear their lines and they were in trouble when Jorginho prodded the loose ball to Mount. The finish, spanked hard and low past Krul from 20 yards, suggested that Chelsea were not in a generous mood.
An hour before kick-off Tuchel had shared some warm words with Farke, a close friend from his Borussia Dortmund days, but the hospitality ended there. Chelsea were rampant and Mount was irrepressible on the right, firing off a series of dangerous shots before releasing James, who burst through to chip Krul for 3-0 in the 42nd minute.
There was more to come when Ben Chilwell scored the fourth shortly after almost presenting the Norwich substitute Milot Rashica with a goal at the start of the second half. Relieved to see Édouard Mendy deny Rashica, Chilwell made amends by collecting his fourth goal in five appearances with a precise finish from the left.
Chelsea, who marked the 25th anniversary of Matthew Harding’s death before kick-off, were not finished yet. Hudson-Odoi, who received a hearty slap on the back from Tuchel when he came off in the 69th minute, forced Max Aarons to score an own goal with a dangerous cross and there was time at the end for two substitutes, Hakim Ziyech and Loftus-Cheek, to make it a day to remember for Mount.