As two of the teams chosen to concentrate on, the first Sunday of the PL season is a direct comparison to pair Wigan and Chelsea on. While Wigan have lost Rodallega to Fulham and the underrated Diame to West Ham on free transfers, they have so far kept manager Roberto Martinez and Victor Moses whilst adding to their squad of players with more low profile signings in Arouna Koné from Sevilla, defender Ivan Ramis from Mallorca, and Ryo Miyachi on loan from Arsenal. Chelsea could not be more different – losing club hero Didier Drogba to Shanghai Shenhua, aswell as Alex and Saloman Kalou. They have replaced with high-profile quality: Eden Hazard from Lille, the Brazilian Oscar, and Marko Marin.
The two teams are still connected of course, as Moses may still move to Chelsea as replacement for Drogba. Chelsea have had the best of encounters between the two in recent years, including an 8-0 victory to secure the Premiership in 2010..
Most league previews have put Chelsea into a Champions’ League place, and Wigan towards relegation – however, my thoughts on the matter were that Wigan would be safe in mid-table should they keep Moses and Martinez.
So, to 1pm Sunday 19th August at the DW Stadium. Both teams began attackingly, and in the 3rd minute Hazard turned his man on the centre circle and played Ivanovic behind the defence on the right, the right back finishing well beyond Al-Habsi. Wigan were perhaps guilty of pushing the wing backs on a little too much early on, particularly against a team who played so well on the counter attack of the Champions’ League semi-final against Barcelona. 4 minutes later Hazard went on a weaving run before being fouled in the box by Ramis – Lampard slotting underneath Al-Habsi, who was unlucky not to save it. 7 minutes in, Chelsea were 2-0 up away, and it smacked of being another large victory. However, Wigan did not lay down, and continued to pressure Cech in goal time and time again. Moses proved why he is so highly rated at DW Stadium by Martinez by constantly causing trouble for Ashley Cole on the wing, before swapping to the left and doing the same to Ivanovic in the second half, and calling Cech into action on a couple of occasions. Wigan dominated play at times in the game, but lacked any real threat in the box, though Kone did cause problems after coming on late in the game. Ramis also atoned for his double error by clearing a Torres shot off the line.
In reality, Wigan looked a decent prospect for mid-table if they continue to play in a similar way in midfield. Boyce, Figueroa and Moses created much, but without a forward of similar calibre it could be difficult to score against organised defences – Martinez needs one of his signings to kick on and prove himself suitable rather than Di Santo or Gomez.
Chelsea look solid enough and made a good start to their season, but I see less goals in the team than I would from City, United or Arsenal. Torres needs to get over his confidence issues and start banging them in regularly and early – Sturridge is a great player but without Drogba to be Mr. Reliable as back up Di Matteo has put a lot of pressure on Fernando. I still question why Chelsea have signed three players in the summer who can all play the same position. Possibly signing a young hungry striker could do them the world of good. Hazard definitely impressed though, setting up both goals.
Man of the match: Eden Hazard