The Sixth Sense: Computer-programmed Chelsea make child’s play of Wigan

Posted on August 23, 2010

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On the ground of their first defeat under Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea expiated the memory of last season’s 3-1 loss in the only way they knew how — by smashing a sorry Wigan off the park.

On the whole however, this was not a performance fuelled by a desire for vengeance (even though the strategic placement of John Terry’s left boot on Charles N’Zogbia would beg to the contrary). It was instead the continuation of the collective exuberance that has infected Carlo Ancelotti’s side of late.

The pre-match signs were ominous. Victims of an 8-0 mauling on the closing day of last season, even the dash of tangerine orange that colours the Blues’ black away strip would have aroused the fresh memory of Wigan’s opening season debacle against Blackpool.  This is a side that has now conceded 18 goals without reply in their last three League games.

It is indicative of Wigan’s current predicament that the loss of calamity prone centre-back, Titus Bramble, is being mourned by Latics fans’ like the absence of a beacon of defensive solidity. He may have matured over his three seasons at the club, but the transfer of Bramble to Sunderland should hardly warrant the back-line shambles served up by Martinez’s men in back-to-back home fixtures.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea on the other hand can boast the tennis-like symmetry of a  6-0, 0-6 . After the match, the Italian flipplantly remarked:

“’it is impossible to think we are always to score six goals in a game, this is not real football, this is Playstation”.

His is a team hard-wired to entertain; the frightening thing about yesterday’s battering was not simply that it was six, but it was six scored at will.

“Maybe they spent a lot of energy in the first half. The second half was easier for us to have more opportunities to score”

In truth, Chelsea toyed with their northern opponents for 45 minutes, lulling Roberto Martinez’s side into hoping that they may even pull off a result against the Champions. But Chelsea were the Muhammad Ali to Wigan’s George Foreman, and after seeming almost surprised by how little the home side had to offer, they set about dismantling the Latics with sadistic ease. There was no ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, only a rumble in the back of Chris Kirkland’s net.

Florent Malouda kicked off Wigan’s inexorable slide by starting and ending a move on 36 mins. Laying off a simple pass to Ashley Cole, the Frenchman showed great endeavour by continuing his run to tap in Frank Lampard’s rebounded effort from 5 yards out. It was goal that displayed a rarer, predatory dimension to the left-footer’s game.

A polished performance: Salomon Kalou celebrates Chelsea's fourth with Man of the Match, Didier Drogba

This was also a week which gave answer to one of English football’s age-old questions: ‘what makes Nicolas Anelka smile?’ The answer, an 18 match international ban from the French Football Federation. Anelka was not only smiling but quoted as ‘dying of laughter’ after the decision to suspend him was announced on Wednesday.  Le Sulk’s uncharacteristic gaiety spilt over into his performance as he bagged a 4-minute brace after the break.

Didier Drogba started the game bidding to become the first player in the Premier League to notch up three consecutive hat-tricks. His name was not on the scoresheet but this was only a goal short of a complete performance from the Ivorian. Having a hand in creating four of the six, the range of Drogba’s cross-field passing, his ability to overpower and run past defenders, as well as selflessly putting goals on a plate for his team-mates, were all on show. Often utilised only as a battering ram in his early seasons at the club, Drogba now seems comfortable playing in any position on the pitch – the complete player for Ancelotti’s own-brand of Total Football.

The game’s most outstanding statistic was also the most telling: 0 corner-kicks (according to Opta this is the first match to end cornerless since they started collecting such data in 03/04). Chelsea’s goals to shot conversion rate was 75%, whilst Wigan rarely trekked far enough into their opponents half to trouble Cech.

When a threat did loom, most often from Honduran stalwart Hugo Rodagella, it was invariably snuffed out by the body of John Terry.  The Blue’s captain was met with inevitable boos from the 11,500 home supporters (the only time they were riled enough to drown out the away contingent) but he relished the battle; it was a commanding display from the much-derided Englishman.

Rewind to the peak of the Mourinho years and this is indeed an alternate reality being played out by the squad the Special One built. The formulaic predictability that led the Blues’ to their first two titles in 50 years has been supplanted by a predictability Roman Abramovich has coveted since his first few million petrodollars were invested in SW6: a guarantee of goals galore. Under Ancelotti’s aegis Chelsea have played out only one goalless draw.

Progressing through the levels week by week, Chelsea’s auto-pilot shows no sign of relenting. The Premiership will have to rack up the difficulty from ‘amateur’ to ‘legendary’ if the Chelsea’s fantasy football juggernaut is to be stopped.

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Posted in: Chelsea, England, Football