Ancelotti opens a chasm between great and good

Wigan Athletic 0 Chelsea 6

it's fair to assume Chelsea merely exploited a form-line from hell. Amid the pitiful tatters of Wigan's version of defence, however, there was surely a message as substantial as it was brutal.

Carlo Ancelotti's team delivered a frightening statement about the faultline that runs so starkly through the Premier League. On one side of it is Chelsea, as strong at the back as they are potent at the front. On the other, certainly at this early time of speaking, are the rest.

Arsenal, it is true, predictably took apart Wigan's opening-day conquerors Blackpool, and there is no doubt the pre-match mood of utterly legitimate foreboding in this part of Lancashire gave you some idea of what it have been like when the Visigoths gathered at the gates of Rome.

Yet the pattern, and maybe the meaning of the game, was not so predictable. For half an hour, Wigan played to their not inconsiderable strength of attacking flair, so vigorously indeed that, had they made a similar effort against Blackpool, the League of Cruel Sports might have been compelled to intervene before the action at the Emirates.

Unfortunately for Wigan, however, Chelsea absorbed the kind of pressure that was too much for them around this time last year – and for Liverpool and Arsenal in the spring – with an acute poise that must have brought a gleam to Ancelotti's eye.

They then produced football of such decimating precision it did rather more than confirm that Wigan's engaging, attack-minded young manager Roberto Martinez is already on borrowed time to produce a semblance of coherent defence. It suggested that Ancelotti may never have a better chance of winning his fifth European Cup – having won four times before with Milan, twice as a player and twice more as a manager.

"Yes," Ancelotti said happily after the match, "my team was very clinical in the second half and all these goals are a fantasy for me but in the first half it was very difficult and we defended very well.

"My great hope is we understand we have to keep our focus and make sure we have the possibility to win because we have some fantastic players."

Ancelotti, to be sure, carried one huge encouragement back to London. It was not in the volume of scoring – "for me it is like PlayStation," he joked – but in the power and the manner of it. It was – and this is what is so exciting for a man who was devastated by his failure to get the better of Jose Mourinho in last season's Champions League – a masterclass in that quality which most delights the Italian football soul: the art of counter-attack.

With the returning Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel oozing destructive power, Chelsea brought Wigan on to the punch with a savage relish and, failing some catastrophic loss of nerve and understanding of what is required from them this season, they will do it to infinitely better teams than the one that sighed and died midway through the second half of what had turned into an excruciating mismatch.

For Chelsea, it was a triumph of ordered thinking and the most powerful, most skilled response to the pressure they were able to systematically strip down. Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka scored the goals that separated the teams, substitutes Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun added the ones that confirmed Chelsea's relentless mood.

Didier Drogba didn't score. He merely looked immense, a player of players, a man of giant strength and quite wonderful touch. It seemed reasonable to ask Ancelotti what he was feeding Drogba; some ambrosia of the sporting gods, perhaps? But no, said the coach, he was not building Superman; he was merely benefitting from the all-ground game of a great striker with a rare quality: humility.

This attribute hasn't always been advertised in neon – but here it was. His contributions to the goals of Kalou were both exquisitely timed and selfless; first a stunningly precise ball to a better placed team-mate, then a cross so majestic in its timing and trajectory, it surely, with the accompanying flick of Kalou's head, presented a strong challenge as goal of the month.

Beyond such virtuosity – and that of Ashley Cole could not be overlooked as he responded to each burst of booing with play of formidable calibre and a determination that was unceasing – there was the powerful sense of a team which, for all its maturity, if not old age, was moving on to another level of performance.

Malouda – arguably the most improved player in the Premier League – was asked if he was restive about the superior reputation of Arsenal and Manchester United in the matter of pure football? His answer was diplomatic enough but did nothing to erase the impression that Chelsea are indeed intent on producing a transforming phase of their recent development.

"It's difficult to know why people still think that," the 30-year-old Frenchman said. "Even when we finished on top of Arsenal, people still said they played better than us.

"Since the manager came in, he has tried to bring in control of the game and people are seeing an evolution in that sense because we're scoring more goals and getting more clean sheets.

"This is what it is all about if you want to win the League. You have to be efficient but when you see a team like Chelsea scoring so many goals I hope our quality is recognised. But there is one more important thing. We're not playing for glory. Our aim is to win."

It is an ambition of growing refinement. Chelsea dismantled Wigan superbly, predictably. But the inescapable conclusion had to be that this could well be the start of something that sees them surpass all previous achievements.

Match facts

Wigan Athletic 4-4-2: Kirkland; Gohouri, Alcaraz, Stam, Figurora (Boyce, 84); McCarthy (Watson, 80), Thomas, Diame (McArthur, 80), N'Zogbia; Boselli, Rodallega. Substitutes not used Ali Al Habsi (gk), Moses, Gomez, Scotland.

Booked Diame.

Chelsea 4-2-3-1: Cech; Ivanovic (Ferreira, 63), Alex, Terry, Cole; Essien (Benayoun, 80), Mikel; Lampard, Malouda (Kalou, 70), Anelka; Drogba. Substitutes not used Hilario (gk), Zhirkov, Van Aanholt, Borini.

Booked Ivanovic, Terry.

Man of the match Drogba.

Possession Wigan 42% Chelsea 58%

Shots on target Wigan 6, Chelsea 8.

Referee M Dean.......... Attendance 14,476.

Match rating 7/10.

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering