Chelsea’s storming six-goal start to the season against West Bromwich Albion laid down a marker to their title rivals and showed they were in no mood to dwell on a disappointing pre-season. The champions hit the top of the table on day one after an impressive 6-0 win over the promoted Baggies.
Yet despite recording their highest opening day victory ever, manager Carlo Ancelotti remained grounded in the aftermath of Saturday’s stroll at Stamford Bridge, insisting the performance was nothing special. “We did our job,” said Ancelotti. “This team can show this kind of play, scoring a lot of goals. We had a difficult pre-season, but now everything has come back to be OK. We played a good game and I am happy.”
Didier Drogba started the season in imperious form, with a hat-trick to send former Blues hero Roberto Di Matteo and his men back to the Midlands thankful they will only face him on one further occasion in the league this season. His three-goal haul saw him overtake Jimmy Greaves as Chelsea’s sixth top scorer of all time, 134 goals in 262 appearances, a rate of better than a goal every other game. Former boss Jose Mourinho, now at Real Madrid, has been rumoured to be preparing a £10million offer to take the Ivorian to the Bernabeu. Chelsea will, of course, fight to keep their talismanic forward, who had promised before the weekend that the successful operation on a hernia in the summer would enable him to fire more goals than ever this season. On the evidence of Saturday he could easily surpass last season’s 37 goals, 29 hit in league matches during the striker’s most prolific season since joining the West Londoners in 2004.
Ancelotti reflected on his star man’s start to the new season and paid tribute to the effort displayed by Drogba. “He did a fantastic job, not just because he scored, he worked really hard for the team,” praised the Italian. “It is very important to have this mentality from all our strikers. Last season he scored a lot of goals, and he has started very well, I think he can do the same again.”
After a wonderful end to last season saw Chelsea lift the Premier League and FA Cup, left winger Florent Malouda endured a miserable World Cup campaign as part of France’s disasterous performance in South Africa. Unable to produce the form that saw him hit 15 goals for his club for his country, Malouda and France fell out of the tournament at the first hurdle, eliminated after defeats to Mexico and hosts South Africa. Malouda returned to London under a cloud as part of the team that fell apart so spectacularly with players revolting against Head Coach Raymond Domenech in an unceremonious split. But back in club colours at the weekend Malouda hit the ground running, scoring twice. He spoke of his delight to be back to winning ways with Chelsea and reflected on the nature of Chelsea’s opening day victory. “That is the perfect reaction to our bad pre-season,” the Frenchman said. “It is important for us to have a good start because we are champions and we know everyone wants to beat us, so to win this way is a good way to remind everyone that we want to remain champions”.
Having ended the season with wins of 7-0 and 8-0 over Stoke City and Wigan Athletic respectively, Chelsea have now scored an incredible 21 goals in their last three matches at Stamford Bridge. They travel to the DW Stadium this Saturday to face a Wigan side on the back of an embarrassing 4-0 home defeat to newly promoted Blackpool on the opening day. For the champions, it is a return to the stadium in which last season’s 3-1 defeat to the Lancashire side saw goalkeeper Petr Cech sent off and the Blues lose their 100% start to the season. With new signing Ramires, who will wear the number 7 shirt for Chelsea this season, ready to join the ranks this week and a relatively injury-free squad, Ancelotti will be hoping his side will leave the site of his first loss in English football with all three points this time.