A RECORD of five wins and 21 goals in five games so far this season, culminating in yesterday’s routine 4-0 victory over Blackpool, suggests Premier League leaders Chelsea are out-and-out favourites to retain their crown in 2011; but even manager Carlo Ancelotti admits that theory will not truly be tested until next weekend.
Chelsea completed what many critics have described as “an easy start to the campaign” by demolishing newly-promoted Blackpool inside 45 minutes and then losing focus in the second half as, just for once, they took their foot off the pedal.
Other victims who have succumbed to the Chelsea goals machine this season include West Brom, Wigan, Stoke and West Ham, leaving Ancelotti’s side top and four points clear of title rivals Manchester United and Arsenal.
Considering the champions also scored a record 142 goals in all competitions last season, including 103 in the Premier League, it seems remarkable there are still lingering doubts over how good they are.
However, those could potentially be ended at Eastlands on Saturday when Chelsea play Manchester City.
“Has it been an easy start for us? Could be, could be,” admitted Ancelotti after assessing yet another comfortable victory.
“We didn’t play against top teams yet but I think we are playing very well and that’s the most important thing. Now it’s important to maintain the same level of play against the top teams and I think we are able to do this.
“For us it’s important to show our play, to have confidence in our play. After our start we have confidence; we know very well the next game will be more difficult but if you are able to show the same level of football against a fantastic team like Man City, it will be an important test for us.”
That’s not to say Blackpool failed to provide Chelsea with any kind of test yesterday afternoon. For a start, the home side had to play the game without either John Terry or Frank Lampard, both injured, which in days gone by would have led to nervous jitters in the stands at Stamford Bridge.
And, once Ian Holloway’s team finally got over their stage fright, they did enough in the second half to show things could have been different if Chelsea had not played so well in the opening 45.
By that time, however, Florent Malouda (two), Salomon Kalou and captain-for-the-day Drogba all hit the net and guaranteed the points for Chelsea.
Chelsea were 1-0 up after only two minutes when Kalou tapped in completely unmarked at the far post from a Drogba corner – and things got progressively worse for Blackpool from there as Drogba set up Malouda for number two after 21 minutes and then scored the third himself, turning sharply to fire home a deflected shot following excellent work by Ashley Cole, who was once again outstanding at wing-back.
Malouda made it 4-0 before the break, drilling home expertly after Kalou – playing ahead of rested Nicolas Anelka – set him up on the left of the area and all the half-time talk was of how many Chelsea could rack up.
Blackpool improved dramatically after the break, going close through DJ Campbell, Luke Varney and subs Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Marlon Harewood, and it was clear Chelsea’s players were already thinking about Manchester City.
“Blackpool had a good reaction after the first half, they made some chances to score and we didn’t play so well because after 4-0 up it was more difficult to maintain concentration and focus,” admitted Ancelotti.
“We had a lot of opportunities but it was not fantastic play like the first half. It was a pleasure to watch my team play the way they played in the first half.”
Chelsea expect to have both Lampard (recovering from a hernia operation) and Terry (sore ribs) back for next week’s game, although both will be rested once more for a Carling Cup tie against Newcastle on Wednesday which will see Ancelotti field almost a reserve team at Stamford Bridge.
As for Blackpool, they left west London disappointed but not distraught after a second-half display which at least allowed manager Ian Holloway to find some positives in defeat.
“At least in the second half we drew with Chelsea – that’s a step forward,” he joked. “Some of their moving and passing is phenomenal and anybody that can beat them must be a fantastic team. I think we have seen so far some people underestimate us in this league and take us for granted – but the champions obviously did not.”
Those words will be music to the ears of Ancelotti, who has strived to bring consistency to Chelsea’s performances and has been rewarded so far with an unblemished record. If Roberto Mancini’s post-match quotes next Saturday are in similar vein, the scene will be set for a very special season.
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