After the perfect start to the 2010/11 season last weekend with a 6-0 romping at home to West Brom, Carlo Ancelotti takes his side to bipolar Wigan Athletic this weekend. Aiming to make it two on the trot to potentially stay top of the embryonic Premier League, Chelsea face a side who have made wild swings from the sublime to the ridiculous their speciality in recent years.
Wigan kicked off their campaign with a shocking home defeat against league newcomers Blackpool, going down 4-0 when it could have been closer to ten. However, their unpredictability can be defined by the two league meetings against Chelsea last season, succumbing to an 8-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge despite winning the reverse fixture 3-1 at the DW Stadium. A quick look at their assorted results last season reveals a plethora of heavy defeats – along with the 8-0, they also lost games 5-0, 4-0, and 9-1 – paradoxically close to a win over Aston Villa at Villa Park, a 1-0 home win against Liverpool, and a stunning come-from-behind win over Arsenal, in which the London side raced into a 2-0 lead only to concede three in the last ten minutes.
One of the Wigan heroes that day was the much-maligned centre back Titus Bramble, scorer of the equalising goal. Typically, Bramble could be hapless at times but mostly infallible against Chelsea, so it is of some relief that the former Ipswich Town man moved on to Sunderland earlier this summer. Another scorer against Arsenal, Charles N’Zogbia, has thrown his toys out of his pram in some style, allegedly going on strike and refusing to play until he is granted a move away from the club. The summer transfer window also saw the likes of Mario Melchiot, Paul Scharner and Olivier Kapo leave on free transfers, leaving Wigan desperately short on quality and slightly thin on the ground. Victor Moses and Gary Caldwell will also be missing from the line-up on Saturday, with both players out through injury.
Chelsea are only without Jose Bosingwa – still – through injury, although a September return date has been touted. The 6-0 opening day win was strange in that the Blues never even looked like getting out of second gear, and we can all probably think of better performances which have yielded less in terms of a result. After a fractured pre-season, it may take some time for Chelsea to hit their stride, but with Wigan’s woeful start to the season immediately hitting their confidence, the DW Stadium shouldn’t see another Latics win on Saturday.
The two sides have only met fifteen times in the past, with Chelsea winning two thirds of these games while Wigan have just three wins to their name, two of which occurred in League Cup and FA Cup ties back in the very early 1980s. In eight matches played in Wigan, Chelsea have managed to net seventeen times.
Chelsea fans’ favourite Mike Dean from Wirral will be the referee in the middle on Saturday. Dean showed seven red cards last season in 43 games, including two in Chelsea’s 2-4 home defeat against Manchester City, which saw Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack – who have since departed Stamford Bridge – leaving the field early. Dean reffed three Wigan games last season, of which the Latics won none of them.
Wigan’s erratic nature coupled with our storming start to the season blatantly points to one thing: a surprise Wigan win. But even taking that into consideration, the woeful state of Wigan’s squad is enough to overpower even the most superstitious person. They are awful, and surely Chelsea cannot fail to win this game. Or can they?