Chelsea returned to their very best this weekend as they tore apart Bolton at the Reebok Stadium. The 4-0 victory ensured the away day blues were well and truly banished for Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Chelsea have been in irresistible form at home, only conceding one goal at Stamford Bridge all season – in their opening fixture against Hull City. In their last three games at the Bridge an incredible 13 goals have been scored. However, after two defeats in their last two away games, a soft, gooey centre to Ancelotti’s usual rigid, structured and disciplined side appeared.
The next task for Ancelotti was against Bolton Wanderers, the side that are famous for set-pieces, long throw-ins and tough tackling from the likes of Fabrice Muamba and Kevin Davies. A 4-0 win in the League Cup will have offered Ancelotti some ideas on how to perform against the men from Lancashire, however, a completely different side ready to battle, fight and cause problems was expected for the Premier League clash. Chelsea opted to play Branislav Ivanovic in the back four to combat some of Bolton’s physical strength, along with John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho. The Portuguese international Paulo Ferreira started at left-back to offer some more attacking presence in the full-back areas after an impressive performance in the League Cup fixture. In the first half Chelsea dealt with Bolton superbly, dealing with the diagonal ball onslaught from Bolton, with Terry, Ivanovic and Carvalho dominating the ball in the air. Positioning and determination were much better from the back four, as they seemed to work as a defensive unit to numb the threat of a tough and physical Bolton side, particularly in the first half.
Chelsea were rewarded for their defensive solidity when Didier Drogba was brought down inside the area by Jlloyd Samuel, resulting in a sending off and a 1-0 lead to Chelsea thanks to Frank Lampard’s resulting spot-kick. This allowed Chelsea to express their dominance in the final third with Drogba and Nicolas Anelka combining to form an incredible threat to the Bolton defence with their sheer pace and power. The four midfield players, Lampard, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Deco were the perfect players to keep the ball from Bolton and dictate the game in the way they wanted. A possession rate of 68.1% to Bolton’s 31.9% and a passing success rate of 85.9% gave a key reflection on how Chelsea pounced and controlled the 10-men of Bolton. Chelsea’s midfield gave a lesson in short, precise and patient passing. Deco in particular kept the ball beautifully, giving the ball short and simple allowing the dynamic drive of Lampard and Essien to catapult Chelsea forward and give edge and potency to their attacks.
The deadly duo of Drogba and Anelka were also at their very best with clever movement and pace causing significant problems for the Bolton backline. With the added space in the second half, Drogba and Anelka dropped into midfield to collect the ball and run with directness and pace towards the Bolton back four. The formation which Ancelotti employs has worked perfectly to give Anelka in particular a more starring role in the Chelsea line-up. The Frenchman is a fantastic player, with wonderful pace and the ability to poach goals and get in the right goalscoring positions. This pace and goal poaching prowess combines perfectly with the brute strength of Drogba, who on his day can be the best striker in the world. Against Bolton, Drogba ran riot, making clever runs to the front and back post, running through the middle with pace and power and also causing significant problems in the air with a fantastic spring and determination to get his head on the ball. The fourth goal was a perfect exhibition of a ruthless Chelsea side – finesse, skill and a deadly finish summed up the performance from a wonderfully efficient Chelsea team.
Ancelotti proved that his Chelsea side can battle and regain the ruthlessness and character of their side despite the previous away day setbacks. The dynamic nature of the side and the ability to grab teams by the scruff of the neck signifies a team with real desire and passion to achieve greatness. Ancelotti has a side who are playing superbly well in a formation which suits each and every player and gives them a chance to showcase their talents to the best of their ability. The former Milan Coach knows his side’s strengths and weaknesses and values each and every player in his squad, and the return to fitness of Joe Cole will no doubt prove a huge boost to the Blues in their hunt to get the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge.
Premier League analysis
Week 1 – August 15/16, 2009
Week 2 – August 18/19, 2009
Week 3 – August 22/23, 2009
Week 4 – August 29/30, 2009
Week 5 – September 12/13, 2009
Week 6 – September 19/20, 2009
Week 7 – September 26/27, 2009
Week 8 – October 3/4, 2009
Week 9 – October 17/18, 2009
Week 10 – October 24/25, 2009
Week 11 – October 31/November 1, 2009