Thursday 18 January 2018

Life in 'old' Drog yet as Blues hit six

Chelsea 6
West brom 0

Didier Drogba scores his sides second goal of the game. Photo: PA
Didier Drogba scores his sides second goal of the game. Photo: PA

Mark Fleming

DIDIER DROGBA, one of the most enigmatic figures in the English game in recent years, has never looked more at home than he does right now.

His three goals against West Brom at Stamford Bridge made him the first player to score successive hat-tricks in Premier League games since Ian Wright in 1994.

And the bad news for defences is that there is more to come as Chelsea's imposing centre-forward, who celebrated his 32nd birthday back in March, claimed his desire has never been greater.

Playing as the focal point in Chelsea's free-scoring team, Drogba enjoyed his best return last season with 37 goals, despite spending more than a month away with the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations.

With no distractions this time around, and moving more freely than he has for years after recent surgery to correct a chronic hernia, Drogba spoke of his desire to play for Chelsea for five more years.

David Beckham may be too old for Fabio Capello at 35 but the Chelsea striker believes there will be life in the old Drog yet, even when he is 37.

"I was already 25 when I started at the highest level so I still feel young, even if I'm 32," Drogba said.

"I still love the pitch, running. I don't count the runs -- I just go.

"Maybe in one or two years' time it will be different. I don't know. But I love it. That's it. If I keep playing in a team like this, I can play maybe five more years.

"There's a big difference to when I came here, when I was struggling to adapt to the English football and to score goals."

The view was shared by his manager, Carlo Ancelotti, who said he has never worked with a striker who as consistent as Drogba.

The former AC Milan and Juventus coach said: "He is fit, he does not have problems physically, he is a professional player so he trains professionally.

"I think that he can play for a lot of years again. The most important thing is the mentality. To be happy to train and play, and I think that Didier is this kind of man.


Drogba has been forgiven many things during his six years at Chelsea. Almost every season, he has seemed on his way out, like when he was frozen out under Luiz Felipe Scolari or when he was banned for three games by UEFA for his amazing rant at officialdom following Chelsea's Champions League elimination to Barcelona in April 2009.

However, this is also a man who has helped end a civil war in the Ivory Coast, and who gave his £3m sponsorship fee from Pepsi to build a hospital. He is a contradictory, complex character and the Premier League is richer for his presence.

Chelsea broke the Premier League scoring record with 103 goals last season and, if Drogba continues to fire on all cylinders, they will fancy their chances of a similar haul this time.

These players clearly enjoy playing together, and the departure of five senior figures, including Joe Cole and Michael Ballack, has been accepted without complaint.

There was certainly no sign of age catching up with this Chelsea side as they took out their individual frustrations from disappointing World Cup campaigns with a collective display of relentless attacking power against promoted West Brom, who made the hosts' task easier by committing some dreadful defensive errors.

This was shooting fish in a barrel and Drogba had a field day, his eyes lighting up at every opportunity.

It is now 44 goals in the last 11 home games for Chelsea in the league and 21 in their last three, and they could easily have surpassed the eight they put past Wigan -- their next opponents -- at the end of the last campaign.

From the moment Scott Carson spilt Drogba's free-kick -- for Florent Malouda to drive home the opening goal -- until the impressive French winger wrapped it up with an angled shot off the post after a clever diagonal run, it was as uneven a contest as the league has seen.

Not that Chelsea played that well. John Obi Mikel continues to give the impression of a man who knows he will not be in the side for much longer, with Ramires now signed up. At times, the passing was sloppy, the pace pedestrian.

The West Brom defences -- with the collapsing wall they constructed at free-kicks -- were embarrassing and Drogba beat Carson directly from a set-piece before he collected a second from a corner, and then a third with a heavy deflection, again from distance. Frank Lampard, inevitably, also scored.

Afterwards, Ancelotti talked of challenges ahead, rather than the statement of intent they laid down in the biggest opening day victory the club have recorded since the Premier League began. He knew that, as brutal as Chelsea were in taking their opportunities, West Brom were woeful.

Ancelotti is usually loath to make rash predictions concerning his team but, he claimed that they are well capable of improving on last season's double.

"Sure, I think that these players can repeat the same season. Our aim is to do better if it is possible. We have started better than last year, showing more confidence, and I think that we can do better," he said.

West Brom manager Roberto di Matteo -- returning to his former club -- looked shell-shocked. Reinforcements, he said, are needed ahead of a punishing beginning to the new campaign.

"We have to learn quickly and improve quickly," he added.

"It does not get much tougher than to play your first away games against Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United; that would be tough for any club, never mind for a newly-promoted club like us." (© Independent News Service)

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