While it wasn’t the ‘Playstation’ football that Carlo Ancelotti had been referring to recently, Chelsea produced a solid display on Saturday to dispatch a spirited Stoke side. Here are some things we learnt in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 2-0 victory against the Potters:
1. Chelsea fans are now seeing the best of Florent Malouda.
Malouda has taken time to adjust to the pace and physicality of the Premier League but now that he has done so, the Frenchman has become one of the most feared players in the league. The former Lyon winger has put his World Cup nightmare with Les Bleus behind him and has been in scintillating form for Chelsea this season.
Malouda has thrived in his role on the left in Chelsea’s attacking trio. This has given Malouda more of a free licence to roam the pitch and move into space, as he knows that there will be width created on the left by Ashley Cole’s attacking endeavours down the flank. And it was this freedom of movement which allowed Malouda to grab Chelsea’s first goal.
John Terry intercepted an errant Stoke pass and took the ball out from the back. He spotted Malouda’s clever run across the Stoke backline and slipped the Frenchman in with a delightfully weighted ball. Malouda latched onto Terry’s ball and coolly finished past an onrushing Thomas Sorensen.
2. Ashley Cole is arguably Chelsea’s greatest attacking threat.
Carrying on from Malouda is Ashley Cole who brings a huge attacking threat down Chelsea’s left. On many occasions on Saturday, Cole found himself the furthest player forward and his tireless ability to get up and down the flank provided Chelsea with a much-needed outlet against a stubborn Stoke defence.
Like Malouda, Cole’s movement is most impressive. He wasn’t content just giving the ball. He was intent on giving the ball and then moving on into space and giving Chelsea another attacking option. This was best seen when Cole played a ball into Drogba and carried on his run into the Stoke box. His run wasn’t tracked by a Stoke defender and Drogba chipped a ball into Cole. Cole then attempted a first time volley which cannoned unluckily off the bar.
With most of the defensive attention focused on the likes of Lampard, Malouda, Anelka and Drogba, Cole has the ability to be Chelsea’s most devastating weapon with his ability to ghost in seemingly unnoticed and influence the outcome of games.
3. Chelsea’s defence is looking formidable.
After our pre-season jitters, our defence is looking a whole lot more settled now that the Premier League has gotten underway. Terry and Alex were superb against the physical threat of Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones and then Ricardo Fuller who came on for Jones in the second half. Admittedly, Chelsea will face sterner tests than West Brom, Wigan and Stoke but three clean sheets out of three will stand us in good stead for any future challenges, starting with West Ham in two weeks time.
4. Lampard is no longer ‘untouchable’.
Frank Lampard may have been an ‘untouchable’ player for Jose Mourinho but under Ancelotti, he is no longer. Lampard didn’t have his best game in Chelsea’s midfield on Saturday and was replaced by Salomon Kalou in the 72nd minute. He managed to miss his third penalty in a row when his tame spot-kick was saved by Thomas Sorensen in the Stoke City goal. While there may have been some mitigating circumstances for Frank’s lacklustre performance (he has been suffering from a groin hernia which will need surgery), it shows that Ancelotti is not afraid of taking off some of the so-called ‘big-name’ players if they aren’t performing up to scratch.
5. Chelsea are still able to grind out results against stubborn opposition.
To be frank, Chelsea didn’t play all that well against Stoke on Saturday but were still able win convincingly. Stoke understandably came to Stamford Bridge with a defensive agenda and this caused Chelsea to struggle for options in the final third with Stoke crowding the space with 10 men behind the ball. Despite this, we were still able to create a number of opportunities and if it wasn’t for some profligate finishing, it could have been three or four-nil.
This ability of ours to get a result against stubborn opposition was a trademark of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side and Ancelotti has kept that tradition going while instilling a greater attacking emphasis on Chelsea’s play.
For football chat and more, follow me on Twitter.