World Cup woes push Ancelotti's Blues to new level
THE vast swathes of empty seats inside the DW Stadium might have triggered the odd flashback for those with battle scars from the World Cup, but in reality, nothing could be further removed from a summer in South Africa than an August evening in Wigan.
Eight weeks after England's brutal second-round elimination at the hands of Germany in Bloemfontein, the wounds clearly remain raw for some, however.
Whenever John Terry, Frank Lampard or Ashley Cole touched the ball during the 6-0 rout of Roberto Martinez's team, they were roundly booed by the home supporters, who obviously viewed their vocal condemnation as payback for all those unfulfilled World Cup expectations.
Yet while the vitriol from supporters to England failures is unlikely to cease for some time yet, Chelsea appear to be extracting something positive from the World Cup wreckage.
England's World Cup no-show aside, not one of Carlo Ancelotti's starting XI against Wigan progressed beyond the last 16 in South Africa.
The French contingent of Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka endured an even worse campaign than the English, while Didier Drogba, Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel also failed to make it past the group stages.
But Chelsea have now scored 12 goals without reply in their opening two Premier League fixtures, so there is no hangover being experienced at Stamford Bridge.
Just as they destroyed West Brom in a six-goal mauling on the opening weekend, Chelsea treated Wigan to an identical show of force.
So, while those paying to watch continue to wallow in the frustration of South Africa, Ancelotti believes that the collective failure of his players is only serving to benefit Chelsea in the Premier League.
"Are my players' bad experiences of the World Cup helping Chelsea now? I think so." Ancelotti said. "If you have a character, then after a problem, you cannot have no motivation.
"And from this, I think the English players are taking more motivation from the World Cup.
"They have all come back with good motivation and I think they are in good condition. The English players like Terry, Lampard and Cole are all now showing very good physical condition.
"Also, to have a good rest after the World Cup was a necessity for them. They all had a very long season in England and they needed to have good recovery time."
Perhaps it is a simple product of familiarity, but Terry, Lampard and Cole all appear to strut more freely with one lion, rather than three, on their chest.
Anelka, handed an 18-game suspension by the French Football Federation last week after being expelled from France's World Cup squad, is another who plays with more freedom while on club duty.
Chelsea are undoubtedly reaping the benefits and this victory emphasised not only the manner in which Ancelotti has consolidated a team ethic, but also highlighted the flair which his players are now exuding.
Malouda, whose 34th-minute goal set Chelsea on their way to victory, believes that the time has come for Ancelotti and his team to be viewed as the entertainers they have become.
He said: "It's difficult to know why people still think that Arsenal and Manchester United are more entertaining.
"Even when we finished on top of Arsenal, people said Arsenal played better than us.
"Since the manager came in last year, he tried to bring in a control of the game and people are seeing an evolution in that sense because we're scoring more goals and getting more clean sheets.
"You have to be efficient and, when you see a team like Chelsea scoring so many goals, I hope that people will recognise our quality. But we're not playing for glory, our aim is to win."
And Chelsea are winning. Wigan, humiliated in a 4-0 home defeat to Blackpool seven days earlier, started as though stung by that loss, but Malouda's goal snuffed out their resistance and preceded a display of clinical finishing by the champions.
Two goals apiece from Anelka and Salomon Kalou, followed by Yossi Benayoun's injury-time strike, completed Chelsea's second successive 6-0 win and made it 14 goals in two games against Wigan, who have paid a heavy price for defeating Ancelotti's team at the DW Stadium last September.
The home side must now quickly stem the flow of goals into their net, otherwise chairman Dave Whelan might begin to review his previously unequivocal backing of Martinez.
So, where do Wigan go next? White Hart Lane, the venue of their 9-1 defeat against Tottenham last November.
Martinez said: "What happened last year at Spurs has nothing to do with the next game. It's about how we perform is a team." (© Daily Telegraph, London)