As Chelsea's away fans kept up an early wave of noise around kickoff, there was a valedictory, Viking Funeral-style air about their exuberant good spirits, a sense of good joy, and event-glamour about it all. Humans are strange creatures. Give us a tribe and a hill to die on: any hill, and we'll be happy.
Tuchel had chosen a regular Chelsea lineup for this most extraordinary of circumstances, moving some key players but keeping the first-choice forward line, with Kai Havertz as the focal point. Tuchel may be forgiven for being a little demob-unhappy. One thing is certain: Chelsea has finally found a manager who cannot be fired under current UK legislation.
Aside from that, it was business as usual. Chelsea fans were singing "Roman Abramovich" at Carrow Road after one minute. They were singing "We've won it all" within two minutes, to the Norwich fans' chants of "You've lost it all." Trevoh Chalobah's header into Mason Mount's corner put them ahead after three minutes. Whatever you think of Vladimir Putin's oligarchical regime, it has aided in the development of a highly effective football squad.
Mount made it 2-0 after 14 minutes, teed up by Havertz, who looked like a whirlwind of continuous movement and sharp edges close to goal, as he has recently. And, as the game progressed, there was time to ponder on one of the weirdest days in English football history, the day the most successful Premier League club in the previous two decades became, in a single stroke, a distressed asset.
There are two points to be made regarding all of this. First and foremost, the government's decision to sanction seven Russian oligarchs has nothing to do with Chelsea. What is or isn't fair to football fans is only a small part of the whole. Unrecoverable hotel expenses? Chelsea, on the other hand, are currently completely cooked. The club is unable to generate revenue, handle payroll, or sell tickets (those stacks of unsold Chelsea tickets have now become non-fungible tokens, to be traded for curiosity value, like a stopped watch from the deck of the Titanic).
When news broke that this entity, this constantly giving hand, had been hacked off at the knees by the British government, the players were boarding an aircraft at Gatwick. By lunchtime, how many calls had been made to Reece James' agent? After this final Norfolk thrashing, how will Chelsea's players stretch their £20,000 away day allowance? Order room service. Take apart the trouser press. And, really, the crucial issue here is the abruptness. Really? Is the government only now realising that Chelsea's owner for the past 19 years is "linked" to Vladimir Putin? Had this not sent off any alarms? Did no one contact the Premier League? Abramovich did not declare his allegiance to his sovereign master all of a sudden. He's still the same strangely quiet, strangely sphinx-like presence. Plus, there's nothing to stop it from happening again right now. Invest in a war criminal. Everything is fine. Welcome to the world's greatest league.
Chelsea's players were undeterred, unscrambled, and hungrily engaged with the task at hand, it must be admitted. It wouldn't be surprising if they went on to win the Champions League again under this cloud, with Roman's name being sung down the Champs-Élysées. Would that be enjoyable? Is it still awe-inspiring?
Nobody seemed to mind in the away end, even though Chelsea were forced to hold on after Norwich pulled one back through Teemu Pukki's penalty. Havertz's late third-quarter goal put the game out of reach. For the time being, Chelsea, keep going.