Alex Dimond's Chelsea Special: Joe Cole's Return No Coincidence As Blues Make Title Statement

Englishman's presence seemed to get Ancelotti's side into fifth gear...
One Cole out, another one comes in for Chelsea.

Ashley Cole might not have recovered from the gashed leg he suffered in midweek in time to play today, but his namesake Joe was fit enough to be handed his first Premier League start in 10 months by manager Carlo Ancelotti.

And the new Cole was influential as Chelsea blasted five goals past a Blackburn Rovers side that never looked like they stood a chance.

Make no mistake, this was a case of the home side being exceptional, rather than the visitors being abject.

Unlike midweek, where Atletico Madrid somewhat slumped to their 4-0 defeat with Chelsea barely out of third gear, here Carlo Ancelotti's side were at their irrepressible best.

Blackburn actually came into the game with a better head-to-head record at Stamford Bridge than their hosts, a fact that serves as a reminder of how relatively recent Chelsea's emergence has been and how Blackburn — one of only four sides to have won the Premier League — have slowly fallen by the wayside.

And tonight their record never looked like being maintained. This was, by some considerable distance, Chelsea's best performance of the season so far.

Blackburn worked admirably as a team to frustrate their opponents in the early exchanges, and served more of a threat going forward than might have been expected from a strike-force consisting solely of Jason Roberts.

However, after Michael Essien's 30-yard swerving drive made it 3-0 on 50 minutes (the second goal in a 16-minute spell that brought four), it was only the final scoreline that was in question.

Without Christopher Samba at the back and David Dunn in midfield - both struck down by a virus - Sam Allardyce's side were stripped of their threat and defence.

By contrast, Chelsea looked more incisive and creative going forward than they have in a long time. Much of this was due to the return of one of the club's most beloved sons, Joe Cole.

The Englishman could, and perhaps, should have scored after just 29 seconds after being finding himself with a clear header in the box.

Perhaps an early indication of his lack of match sharpness, nevertheless his clever runs and intricate passing in the remaining 75 minutes of his time on the pitch frequently turned the Rovers defence inside out.

Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard, working hard behind Cole, both seemed to be liberated by his presence, and both men had a number of attacking chances. Lampard's second and third goals of the week were almost expected after the No. 8 went close on a number of occasions.

And Michael Essien, at the base of midfield, was arguably the man of the match with his tackling and inch-perfect passing that got his side flowing forward.

Without Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa - out injured - Chelsea did lack a bit of the width and options that they have come to expect from their full-backs.

But that is just nit-picking, and Ancelotti will have been hugely encouraged by what he witnessed - especially as he looks to have filled a position that was becoming a problem.

Inexplicably, both Deco and Frank Lampard have failed to really prosper at the tip of the diamond this season. But Cole has been waiting much of his career to star in that role, and looks like with a few more games under his belt he could be ready to star.

When the Blues get the other Cole back on the pitch, you wonder what further embarrassment they might heap on their opponents.

Chelsea's title rivals will no doubt have heeded tonight's warning.

Because, as title statements go, this five-star performance was as emphatic as they come.

Alex Dimond, UK