Wigan Athletic 1 – 2 Chelsea

Match reports

The Observer, Paul Wilson: “[A] masterful contribution from Nicolas Anelka, who scored one goal, made another and added some much needed finesse to Chelsea’s workmanlike win.”

Sunday Telegraph, William Johnson: “Anelka, predatory in the North West while wearing the colours of Liverpool, Manchester City and Bolton, showed all of the sharpness he displayed as an Arsenal youngster to propel the holders into the last 16.”

Sunday Times, Jonathan Northcroft: “The one certain thing about Anelka’s goal was that his finish was that of a thoroughbred … On the volley, and with a beautifully judged touch, Anelka toed it past the goalkeeper.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “A great cup week in the north-west was completed when Nicolas Anelka’s first Chelsea goal and Shaun Wright-Phillips’s third goal this month were enough for victory.”

The good

  1. Nicolas Anelka. The £15 million we paid Bolton for Anelka is already looking like one of the bargains of the season. (Consider this: is Dimitar Berbatov worth twice as much? I think Spurs are having a laugh.) Everything about Anelka says class, he oozes it – his movement, touch, pace and vision are second to none. He’s certain to add a hatful of goals to the one he scored in this game, his first for Chelsea, in the remaining months of the season. The question is, will Avram Grant play both Anelka and Didier Drogba once the latter returns from Africa Cup of Nations duty? Everton manager David Moyes made a good point in the Match of the Day studio about Anelka playing with Kevin Davies at Bolton, and that Anelka could perform a similar role alongside Drogba. That Moyes fellow has promise. Whatever happens, we’ve not had a strike pairing with this much potential since the heyday of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen.
  2. Claude Makelele and Steve Sidwell. What a player Makelele is. I was so impressed that I thought about awarding him Man of the Match. Sidwell played with a great deal more confidence and deserves recognition after coming in for some criticism this season. Like Michael Essien, he seems to have a limitless supply of energy.
  3. The back four. For 87 minutes they looked almost invincible, I’m pretty sure Petr Cech had just two saves of note to make – one with his legs from an Emile Heskey shot at the near post, and a tame Jason Koumas free kick. To be fair there wasn’t a lot they could do about Antoine Sibierski’s terrific turn and volley, though Juliano Belletti did get too tight to the Frenchman (his only mistake in an otherwise brilliant performance). The final few minutes were a good example of why it’s best to keep the ball instead of looking to score another goal; Marcus Bent came very close to earning Wigan an undeserved replay.
  4. We’ve gone 19 games undefeated in domestic cup competitions since losing 2-1 to Liverpool in the semi-finals of the FA Cup back in 2006.

The bad

  1. Florent Malouda. The only player who disappointed me; he put in what can only be described as a lightweight performance. Somebody needs to tell him to get stuck in and stop being bullied off the ball.
  2. Our play was as patchy as the pitch. Apparently Wigan spent £120,000 on an inflatable cover system to keep the worst of the weather off the JJB Stadium lawn only to find that the central support killed the grass underneath it. Still, the whole of the Stamford Bridge playing surface used to look like that on occasions a few seasons ago, so who are we to complain.
  3. Michael Brown. I dislike Brown almost as much as I dislike Stephen Hunt. Both wouldn’t think twice about ending a fellow professional’s career with a vicious and unnecessary tackle, and both should receive more red cards than they do. Brown’s off-the-ball forearm to Makelele’s chin was more than the “handbags” claimed by Wigan manager Steve Bruce – any higher and Makelele could have ended up with a nose like Bruce’s. What’s the betting that the Football Association will do nothing about it? Michael Essien received a red card against Derby for an innocuous hand-off in the face of Kenny Miller, yet the likes of Brown get away with much more serious offences like this.

Man of the Match

As mentioned above, I thought about giving it to Claude Makelele but, for his overall performance and for scoring his first goal I’m going to give it to Nicolas Anelka, who could turn out to be one of the most inspired signings of recent years.

Final thoughts

It’s so late that I don’t seem to have any.

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