The Blues midfielder has been mostly a fringe player since signing in the summer but his stunning goal on Saturday showed he has a bright future.
Danny Drinkwater’s wondergoal was the highlight of a completely one-sided 5-0 demolition job of Stoke City at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea enjoyed the perfect preparation ahead of the midweek visit to Arsenal.
The £30 million deadline day signing from Leicester endured a difficult start to his Blues career having picked up a calf injury only a few days after joining the club, while he also missed the entirety of pre-season.
But the 27-year-old is now hitting his stride as we go into 2018 and was one of the standout players as Chelsea made Stoke look like the Championship team they risk becoming.
Drinkwater’s stunning volley from 30 yards made it 2-0 but fellow summer signings Antonio Rudiger and Davide Zappacosta also found the back of the net, while Pedro added a long range strike and Willian scored from the spot.
Alvaro Morata may be the pick of Chelsea’s summer arrivals, but until now Drinkwater has not really had the chance to justify his price tag.
Having grown up in Manchester United’s youth academy, he has gone the long way round to arrive at a major club but he is a perfect fit alongside N’Golo Kante, whom he won the Premier League title with at Leicester City in 2015-16.
Chelsea have high competition for places in the centre of midfield with the legendary Cesc Fabregas amongst the group. However, Fabregas has never looked entirely comfortable in Antonio Conte’s hard-working midfield and he has had to transform his game to continue his career at the club.
Meanwhile, Tiemoue Bakayoko has had plenty of chances but he has struggled to adapt to the Premier League after his £40 million move from AS Monaco. He was signed with a knee injury and missed pre-season too but he has been singled out on many occasions for poor performances.
Chelsea’s additions of Drinkwater and Bakayoko came as the club sold both Nemanja Matic and Nathaniel Chalobah in the summer. Drinkwater looks the most like-for-like replacement for the now Manchester United midfielder, boasting a great passing range and defensive discipline.
In his display, he managed 107 touches which was more than any other players, while he also made the most tackles of any Chelsea player.
Drinkwater isn’t exactly Chelsea’s most fashionable player, shunning the celebrity status that comes with being a footballer and having almost no social media presence to speak of.
Chelsea have now won four of the five games that Drinkwater has started and have only drawn in the 1-1 away match against Liverpool.
Conte will judge him purely by his performances and if Drinkwater can continue to establish himself at Chelsea then England manager Gareth Southgate will have to take him to the World Cup given his shortage of central midfield options.
Drinkwater is doing everything right to secure a permanent spot at Chelsea and a busy January fixture list can be a springboard for him to earn the status that he could have received playing for Manchester United.