Now you’re going to see a whole lot of doom and gloom on this site around the next few days. Chelsea drew 1-1 with lowly Wigan on Monday night, and quite rightly we are all disappointed. But rather than join the nay-sayers, I’ll attempt a bit of cheering up, and put a bit of a positive spin on things, Peter Kenyon style.
With five games to go before the match kicked off, our talented manager Avram Grant geed up the troops by pointing out the fact we needed to win every game left. Unfortunately for him, the Blues were missing Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba through injury, however there was a return for Petr Cech, wearing a chin strap following a training ground accident.
The home side began as the better side, showing some bright attacking football, with Salomon Kalou crossing into the box for Nicolas Anelka in the fourth minute. However, the French striker, low on goals but high on work rate, headed wide.
Wigan had the next good chance, with Antonio Valencia forcing a fine save from the brave Petr Cech in the 19th minute, the Czech stopper getting down quickly to parry away a drive from the Latics man.
But Anelka again looked dangerous, and he was unlucky not to put Chelsea ahead six minutes later. Florent Malouda – who was really impressive, as he has been all season (remember the spin here people) – was the provider this time, but again Anelka was denied, as Wigan ‘keeper Chris Kirkland arched himself back to tip the striker’s header over the bar.
The first-half was obviously about saving legs, as Grant’s side didn’t fully show their attacking potential. While Arsenal or Manchester United would have attacked Wigan from the start, Grant cleverly confused the opposition by telling his side to sit back.
He then proved his shrewd tactical acumen by surprising everybody watching, bringing off the lively Malouda and introducing Joe Cole from the bench.
The change showed guile and ambition, and showed that Grant clearly has a plan B. Cole immediately ran at Wigan, and started to create chances.
Minutes later, a trio of attacks ended in the deadlock being broken. First, John Terry volleyed a shot against the bar from a corner, then, Kalou saw his close-range shot saved by Kirkland. But next, Anelka showed his talents do not just lie with goal-scoring, as he set up Michael Essien on the edge of the box. The Ghanaian finished with aplomb and it was no less than Chelsea deserved.
As soon as the Blues took the lead, Grant again showed the initiative which has got him to such a lofty position in football management. Despite the fact that his side were at home against a technically weaker team, rather than push on and kill the game off, he again made his eleven sit back and consolidate.
And it worked too… Until the very last minute that is.
After some half-chances fell to Cole, Anelka and Essien with no end product, Wigan saw an opportunity to attack, and following an Antoine Sibierski effort which was saved by Cech, they went one better when a Jason Koumas cross was converted by Emile Heskey for the equaliser.
It was harsh on Chelsea, who had played out a tactical battle all evening, and were clearly the better side because Avram said so.
Manchester United now sit five points clear with just four games to play, but after narrowly losing two points at the Bridge on Monday night, the Blues can now focus on the Champions League, which is clearly Grant’s main objective.
Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Alex, Terry, Bridge, Ballack, Essien, Obi (Shevchenko 90), Kalou, Anelka, Malouda (Joe Cole 46).
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Pizarro, Wright-Phillips.
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Boyce, Kilbane, Valencia, Skoko (Koumas 56), Palacios, Taylor (King 79), Heskey, Bent (Sibierski 64).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Brown.