West Ham United 0 Chelsea 4: Grant gets it right as Anelka's class tells

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The Independent Online

With this victory Avram Grant did not just eclipse Jose Mourinho's 4-1 win at Upton Park last season, he surpassed every other Chelsea manager, Ted Drake, Dave Sexton and Ruud Gullit included, in presiding over the club's biggest victory in 85 years of visiting this oft-intimidating venue.

Point made? Or did it just confirm the belief that enigmatic Israeli oversaw the wrong selection for last week's Carling Cup final.

"This was not a different team, it was a team which played differently," insisted Grant. It was both. There were six changes from the starting XI at Wembley but perhaps the most significant was positional. Nicolas Anelka was wasted on the wing last week; on Saturday, while not scoring, he was the most influential player on the pitch.

True, he did much of his best work in wide positions, but the crucial aspect is he did so having drifted from the centre to tear great holes in West Ham's cover. Sometimes a central defender went with him, leaving space for Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Salomon Kalou to attack. Sometimes they did not, enabling Anelka to orchestrate attacks. Most of the time he was so poorly marked he might have been wearing Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisibility.

However, Chelsea also have Didier Drogba. The pair ought to be compatible, but that would mean Grant changing his formation, finding reliable wingers, omitting Ballack or Frank Lampard every week (plus Michael Essien), and sacrificing the flexibility 4-3-3 provides.

It is a tough call for Grant who bridled at a question referring to his decision to leave Drogba, who has not played in the League for three months, on the bench. He might have expected a less challenging inquiry after winning 4-0 away from home with 10 men for most of the last hour. Nevertheless, he could have replied that Chelsea have an important Champions League tie looming, and there was no need to bring on a striker.

But Grant sees demons in every media poser, and it is hard not to blame him. Due to the perception that he got the job because he is the owner's mate, his lack of achievement outside his native country, and his blandness in comparison to the irrepressible Mourinho, he has had the press against him for the beginning. When Grant left the likes of John Terry and Lampard sweating over their Carling Cup places he was seen as being petty, when Fabio Capello does the same it indicates strength.

So how should this win be interpreted? Were the players making a defiant response to the midweek criticism of their manager? Or were individuals making a point to Grant after being omitted – or played out of position – last week? In short, are Chelsea still in contention for the Premier League title because of Grant, or despite him? And what roles do Henk Ten Cate, Steve Clarke, Frank Arnensen and the rest of the Court of Stamford Bridge play in the soap opera? As Joe Cole said, "There is so much drama surrounding the club".

The one man who needs to have the right answers is Roman Abramovich. It might be noted though the belief that Grant is his patsy does not square with Andrei Shevchenko being cast even further adrift than he was under Mourinho.

Abramovich was not present at Upton Park, as governor of Chukotka province he was in Russia for the Presidential election, but Grant said: "I know he saw it on TV. Even if he was on an island on the Moon I know he would see it."

If so the first action he saw was a wrongly disallowed goal by Anelka. It mattered not. A lamentably ill-judged tackle by Anton Ferdinand on Kalou allowed Lampard to joyfully tuck away a penalty. Three minutes later Anelka out-jumped Ferdinand to Petr Cech's goal-kick, picked up the loose ball himself, and found Joe Cole who volleyed in off the far post. Barely two further minutes had elapsed before Anelka, in space, fed Lampard whose deft cross was volleyed in by Ballack.

That was game over, even Lampard's soft dismissal for a desultory push on Luis Boa Morte – which may be appealed – failed to disturb Chelsea who added a fourth through Ashley Cole.

"I would say they are the most clinical team we have played," said West Ham's Freddie Ljungberg.

"They were the best team we have faced this season," added George McCartney. Respect; but for the manager, or just the players?

Goals: Lampard (17, pen) 0-1; J Cole (20) 0-2; Ballack (22) 0-3; A Cole (64) 0-4.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney; Faubert (Solano, 66), Noble, Mullins, Ljungberg; Boa Morte (Ashton, 46), C Cole (Zamora, 65). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Spector.

Chelsea (4-1-2-3): Cech; Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Makelele (Alex, 84); Ballack, Lampard; Kalou (Malouda, 75), Anelka, J Cole (Essien, 69). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Drogba.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire). Booked: Chelsea Ballack, Terry. Sent Off: Chelsea Lampard.

Man of the match: Anelka.

Attendance: 34,969.

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