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Carlo Ancelotti continues his unassuming march towards immortality

As statements of intent and seamless continuity go, Chelsea's opening day destruction of West Bromwich Albion takes some beating. Even given the modest nature of the opposition, the Premier League champions have undoubtedly emphasised that they are the team to beat this season.

The fact that they began this season as they finished the last is surely a stark warning to all the challengers hoping to usurp their crown. A 6-0 win on day one puts extra pressure on Liverpool and Arsenal, who do battle today at Anfield; and Manchester United, who take on Newcastle tomorrow. It also puts the goalless draw shared by Manchester City and Tottenham firmly in the shade.

And it is all the more impressive as often teams flushed with recent trophy-winning success can struggle to regain momentum and motivation on resuming hostilities. Consider Manchester United at the start of last season, or Spain last week, for example.

A look back at the Premier League in the 21st century reveals that an emphatic first-day win by the reigning champions is no guarantee of success. Among teams defending the title, the biggest winners after Chelsea are Manchester United, whose 4-0 home demolition of Bolton Wanderers in 2003-04's curtain raiser didn't stop them finishing outside the top two for the first time since the Premier League's foundation. Champions Arsenal crushed Everton 4-1 at Goodison Park on the opening day of the 2004-05 campaign but finished 12 points shy of the Blues the following May.  

Yet there is something different about this Chelsea vintage. The Blues have now hit 47 goals in their last 10 home Premier League games, including eight against Wigan, seven against each of Sunderland, Aston Villa and Stoke and now six against Roberto Di Matteo's newly-promoted side. Under Jose Mourinho, they were relentlessly efficient. Under Carlo Ancelotti, they are simply relentless, going for the kill then carrying on regardless when done.

Chelsea were hardly convincing in the opening half against the Baggies, with two major defensive errors giving them their half-time cushion, but they showed signs of their pedigree even before moving out of first gear. West Bromwich found the home side's movement dizzying, with the flexible front three of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda defying Chelsea's reputation as rigid.

Drogba is the fearsome focal point and made his presence felt more as the evening drew in, but the roles of Anelka and Malouda were strong clues to how Ancelotti plans to evolve his team's game this season. Anelka started the game running at left-back Marek Cech, later popped up just outside his own penalty area to bring the ball away from danger on the left, then dropped into the centre of the pitch to instigate a break. His industry and intuitiveness is something to behold.

His French international colleague Malouda (many Chelsea fans' standout player of last season) was similarly multi-tasking, rushing in to open the scoring and soon after moving inside to allow the rampant Ashley Cole a clear run at the prone Gonzalo Jara, with the Chilean a rabbit in the headlights. It was from a central position that Anelka and Malouda combined, in the dying embers of the match, to fashion a stylish sixth goal.

Ancelotti's expressed desire to make Chelsea younger - around their experienced pillars Drogba and Frank Lampard - is already bringing subtle changes to their style, something that will be ably directed by Michael Essien as he recovers his best level, from the fine performance against West Bromwich to his incessant peak. The now-sealed signing Ramires will be his partner in crime, and better opposition than the West Midlanders will find the Blues very hard to live with.

Chelsea's coach is not a revolutionary, but he is canny enough to know how to build on his success. That the Stamford Bridge club now hold the record for the biggest Premier League first-day win will be no surprise to Ancelotti watchers, already used to the Italian stealthily racking up milestones without fanfare.


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