Club Focus – Chelsea – Blues’ Lancashire lope

The Blues were rampant against Lancashire side Blackburn on Saturday, with natural flair and real attacking potency on display in a resounding 5-0 home win. A performance that will no doubt transfer fear across the country, with both the Manchester contenders dropping points as well as Arsenal and Liverpool already finding themselves in compromising positions, the challengers will be looking up apprehensively at the Blues.

Chelsea’s performance has highlighted their capabilities which remained dormant against both Wigan and Aston Villa – raising concerns that their away form may resist the Londoners otherwise pending title credentials. Unlike lesser sides, with no discredit to them, Stoke City and Burnley for example are able to rely on their home form and hope to steal points away from the Britannia or Turf Moor respectively in order to achieve their season targets. Chelsea on the other hand must mirror their home performances across the globe, with a view to Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions league glory. Unpredicatable away form lends itself to nothing more than second place. Carlo Ancelotti for this reason may revise his arrangements away from home, after viewing Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka and Joe Cole control the park this weekend – the question now to Ancelotti would be why change what’s not broken? If the manager employed the same approach away from home, the Blues may find themselves susceptible to attacks of their own (although surely no more so than already on show). The inevitable fact however is that more often than not the Blues would find the net on multiple occasions. With Lampard notching three goals in two games, his confidence in a deeper role is evident and imperative to the success of the team. After a performance of such magnitude, are the players willing to adapt to non preferred roles in order to satisfy the manager’s cautious away approach?

Blackburn seemed to take confidence from the Blues’ inconsistent form of late (much to the frustration of manager Sam Allardyce), however this then in itself became problematic and lead to the side’s own downfall. Ancelotti’s men were quick to pounce on Blackburn’s ineffective forward play with some dangerous counter-attacks – Rovers continued to search forward and probe, only to be wasteful in the final third and pay the price on the break. Didier Drogba was once again unplayable, tormenting Ryan Nelson and Gael Givet with an electrifying display, cemented with the final goal when the Ivorian powered a header past Paul Robinson. However, much to the success of the formation was down to Joe Cole, who adopted the pivot of the diamond formation with considerable comfort. His explosive return from injury was at the backbone of Chelsea’s destructive form – Cole encompasses all the assets required of a successful ‘free role’ individual. The midfield marvel entails the vision and creativity of Deco but is able to combine this with natural grit, determination and pace. The player was eager to inform post match journalists of his delight to be reinstated into the team after a terrible eight months out with injury. The enjoyment became apparent in the latter stages of the game where the former West Ham youngster grew in confidence and entertained his gleeful audience with flicks and imaginative skill.

This coming week the Londoners face another Lancashire side in the shape of Bolton, and twice in succession. Wednesday’s League Cup tie at Stamford Bridge is quickly followed by Saturday’s Premier League fixture at the Reebok. The Trotters have been punching above their weight recently with Gary Megson’s side beating Everton in an eventful 3-2 win on Sunday and lying mid-table accumulating 11 points from nine games. Striker Kevin Davies is a handful at the back and after Alex completed a reserve team match last week, the defender may be given the uncomfortable task of containing the nuisance attacker in Wednesday’s cup game. It will be interesting to see how the manager approaches the game – with little experience of the League Cup, Ancelotti may opt to give starts to Daniel Sturridge and Jeffrey Bruma. An early exit would not however be well received by the board and it is likely core players will retain their place, although a supposedly second string side at Chelsea may contain names such as John Obi Mikel, Yury Zhirkov and Salomon Kalou. Nonetheless the manager’s approach to the game will provide much intrigue for onlookers as to how highly the domestic cup is prioritised amongst other competitions. After all, it is not a well kept secret of course that Roman Abramovich desires the Champions League.

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