Wigan Athletic 0 – 2 Chelsea

Match reports

The Observer, Paul Wilson: “No goal feast this time, but Chelsea will be well content with a fourth successive win since the defeats to Aston Villa and Manchester United that bookended the departure of Jose Mourinho. The Special One himself could not have supervised a more convincing recovery.”

Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “While attention was focused on events at the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea went about their ruthless business in Lancashire, dispatching an inferior Wigan team without flinching, the game redundant as a contest after early goals from an in-form Frank Lampard and full-back Juliano Belletti. It was their seventh-straight win and took them third, just three points behind the joint leaders.”

Sunday Times, Richard Rae: “While the scoreline might suggest something of the efficiency of the Jose Mourinho era, this was a Chelsea performance very much in keeping with the more open – and from a neutral point of view, unquestionably more entertaining – style of football that Avram Grant is encouraging. True, they didn’t finish as well as they have in recent games, and perhaps they were guilty of easing off towards the end of a game that they controlled throughout, but with Shaun Wright-Phillips involved in most of their best work, there was a bounce and flair about them which has become pleasantly familiar in recent weeks.”

Independent on Sunday, Jon Culley: “To their credit, Wigan responded with character and fight, putting Chelsea under some pressure, particularly in the second half and only a very good, one-handed save by Petr Cech from a header by the substitute Antoine Sibierski denied them the reward of a goal late on.” (Wasn’t Sibierski flagged offside?)

Official Chelsea FC Website: “The winning run stretches to seven games in all competitions and with Arsenal and Man United sharing the points in London earlier in the day, the distance to the top has shortened to just three points.”

The goals

11′ Lampard 0-1
18′ Belletti 0-2

The good

  1. The result and first half performance. No last minute goal required this season at the JJB Stadium. I thought we were on course for another 6-0 win such was our dominance in the first 45 minutes. I’m not sure what happened at half time, but Wigan were the better side after the break, though they never really looked like scoring.
  2. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Frank Lampard and Juliano Belletti. Good to see Wright-Phillips given a place in the starting eleven. He didn’t disappoint and played a significant role in both goals. Lampard put in another virtuoso performance and scored his fourth goal this week and ninety-seventh since joining Chelsea in 2001, while Belletti scored his first goal for the club, a memorable strike after a length-of-the-pitch run out of defence, aided in no small part by Wright-Phillips’ agility.
  3. Ricardo Carvalho and Alex Rodrigo. A formidable central defensive partnership. Made Petr Cech’s job a great deal easier with some timely blocks. We’ve not conceded a league goal since Avram Grant’s first game in charge, the 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford back in September.
  4. Twelve goals in our last three games. Grant promised entertainment and in recent games he’s delivered. I was really disappointed that we didn’t score more after going 2-0 up inside 18 minutes. If that’s not an indication of just how significantly things have changed since Jose Mourinho’s departure, I’m not sure what is.
  5. The four thousand Chelsea fans that made the journey to the JJB certainly made for a great atmosphere.

The bad

  1. Didier Drogba. He’s included in this section because of yet another attack on Chelsea, this time in a DVD about him released in France. According to reports, in it he said: “I was disgusted. I realised that signing for Chelsea was disgusting. It’s hard to explain.” You can read more here. Anyone else just wish he would keep his mouth shut? While his effort and passion on the pitch cannot be faulted, off it he is in danger of alienating fans with his constant snide remarks.

Man of the Match

Both Frank Lampard and Juliano Belletti put in performances worthy of the award, but I’m giving it to Shaun Wright-Phillips, who gave Wigan’s left side a torrid time. Prematurely written off again by the press and some fans.

Final thoughts

There is no denying that since Avram Grant’s appointment something fundamental has changed at the club. At this moment in time, given Grant’s history or lack thereof in top level football management, I’m still finding it difficult to credit him fully with the way the team is playing. Perhaps I’m just being stubborn. Whoever is responsible, long may it continue. We’re just three points behind Manchester United and Arsenal, though the Gunners have a game in hand. It could turn out to be a great season yet.

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