Ancelotti's entertainers reign
The success of Jose’s Mourinho’s Chelsea was indebted to defensive impregnablilty. By contrast, the Blues’ recapture of the Premier League crown on Sunday, which ended Manchester United’s three-season monopoly, owed much to prolificacy.
Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti’s side scored an incredible 103 goals – seven more than the previous record in a Premier League campaign – en route to a conquest that denied the Red Devils an unprecedented fourth straight English top-flight title. That is what Sir Alex Ferguson's side appeared en route to achieving in early March. They led Chelsea, who had lost two of their last two league games, by two points, and still had to welcome the London outfit to Old Trafford.
That fixture was won by the visitors, however, with Joe Cole and Didier Drogba securing a 2-1 success. It was one of seven victories Chelsea achieved in their last eight games, during which time they scored 33 goals or, on average, 4.125 per game. Aston Villa were victims to a 7-1 destruction and Stoke City suffered a 7-0 humbling, but the Stamford Bridge team saved the best till last, destroying Wigan Athletic 8-0 on the final day to finish a point clear of Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.
“We’re very happy,” said a beaming Ancelotti. “The most important thing is to win, but we also wanted to play good football this season. I think we found the right way to win, giving joy to the fans.
“I want to say thanks to everyone that worked with me during the season who supported me every day, and above all my players because I found a fantastic team. We wanted to win this title and in the end everyone did a fantastic job.”
A number of players made significant contributions to Chelsea’s triumph, but the club’s two stand-out performers were undoubtedly Frank Lampard, who contributed 22 goals and a division-high 17 assists from midfield, and Didier Drogba, whose unparalleled total of 29 in 32 matches earned him his second Premier League top scorer award.
“This is the best moment I have had since I became a professional footballer,' said the Côte d'Ivoire striker. “It's been a fantastic season, we scored a lot of goals, 103, and we have played some good football and that's what is important for the team.
“The team have worked hard for this all season and they helped me win the golden boot, which will always mean a lot. It is amazing and special and I owe it to the whole team. We kept our identity throughout the season which is good and this is a message for people about Chelsea's strength. We had a great season and we deserve to be champions.”
As exceptional as Drogba was throughout the season, he was outshone by Wayne Rooney. The United luminary revelled in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose pre-season transfer to Real Madrid afforded him the chance to operate in a central attacking role and, moreover, become his team’s go-to guy.
While 2009/10 was ultimately a forgettable season for United, it was the opposite for North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. The former, inspired by the exceptional Cesc Fabregas, remained in the title hunt until late, while the latter belied the odds to beat Manchester City, Aston Villa and Liverpool to fourth place and UEFA Champions League qualification. Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers also thrived, both securing top-ten finishes, and Wolverhampton Wanderers deserve credit for surviving the drop on their return to the elite.
Ultimately, though, the biggest winners were a Chelsea team Ancelotti has masterfully remodelled into one that can thrill and conquer in equal measure.