Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant, Scolari, Hiddink. Whoever occupies the Stamford Bridge dug-out, one constant can be relied upon: Frank Lampard.
The England midfielder was at it again on Saturday, driving his team forward when victory appeared to be slipping away and stealing a late winner that moved Chelsea above Liverpool into second place and within sight, though probably not reach, of Manchester United.
After a period when he seemed to lose his bearings Lampard has his feet back on the ground and is fashionable again – not that "Lampsy" ever went out of style on the King's Road. Guus Hiddink became the latest manager to praise the No 8 who, with John Terry, has a club-authorised banner praising him adorning the Matthew Harding Stand. It was fitting, then, that the two were the scorers on a day when Chelsea suggested they have rediscovered the indomitability that made them so hard to beat under former manager Jose Mourinho.
Hiddink said: "You have to have the basic qualities as a player – Lampard and Terry both have that – but it is the determination which is decisive in a player. In the key moments of the game then the real big players are there. They make it happen."
"The English core of the team is still coming up with the goods because we love the club," said Lampard. Terry's spectacularly volleyed goal, which beat Chris Kirkland with the aid of a glance off Emerson Boyce's head, gave Chelsea a lead Wigan would have extinguished but for a miss by Paul Scharner and Ashley Cole's goalline clearance from Titus Bramble. Wigan showed character themselves and thought they had gained a deserved draw when Oliver Kapo turned in Maynor Figueroa's cross. But Lampard headed in a cruel winner when he beat Mario Melchiot to Michael Ballack's flick-on.
The Wigan manager, Steve Bruce, was hoarse but incandescent afterwards, blaming referee Lee Probert for failing to penalise a slight nudge by Lampard on Melchiot. "Was it a foul?" Lampard was asked. "It certainly wasn't blatant," he said, adding, "sometimes referees give them, sometimes they don't. I would have been upset if the decision had gone against me."
Bruce feared for his team as early as the 18th-minute when Probert booked Terry for pulling back Amir Zaki, but decided against summoning the England captain, who had sprinted 30 yards away, for the customary name-and-number check. "If it had been one of my players he'd be marched over to get the yellow card," said the Wigan manager.
"You hope that when you come to a big club the officials do their job properly and don't get intimidated. Unfortunately some of them seem not capable. It's easier for them not to give decisions against the big boys. If [Lampard's goal] is disallowed there's absolute eruptions for weeks."
He added: "The big boys will get the decisions against the little ones. It's the law of the jungle." But, he was asked, did he not get the benefit when a Manchester United player? "Absolutely," he said, without only a hint of ruefulness.
Goals: Terry (25) 1-0; Kapo (82) 1-1; Lampard (90) 2-1.
Chelsea (4-1-2-3): Cech; Mancienne (Quaresma 81), Alex, Terry, A Cole; Mikel; Ballack, Lampard; Kalou (Belletti 75), Drogba, Anelka. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Di Santo, Malouda, Ferreira.
Wigan Athletic (4-2-3-1): Kirkland; Melchiot, Bramble, Boyce, Figueroa; Cattermole (Rodallega 69), Brown; Kapo, Scharner, N'Zogbia; Zaki (Sibierski 89). Substitutes not used: Kingson (gk), Edman, Kupisz, Routledge, Holt.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Booked: Chelsea Alex, Terry, Mancienne. Wigan N'Zogbia, Cattermole.
Man of the match: Lampard.
Attendance: 40,714.Reuse content