Drogba: We must improve on last season
Didier Drogba believes Chelsea will have to fight all the way to retain the Premier League title, despite kicking off the new campaign with a 6-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti's men made a mockery of their poor pre-season - last weekend's 3-1 Community Shield defeat by Manchester United was their fourth consecutive loss - as the newly-promoted Baggies were ripped apart by clinical finishing. Drogba netted a hat-trick, while Florent Malouda added a brace and Frank Lampard also opened his account.
With traditional title rivals United, Arsenal and Liverpool all not in action on the opening day, and big-spending Manchester City drawing 0-0 at Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea certainly laid down a marker of intent to continue where they finished off in their drive towards the 2009/10 crown, in which they won successive home games 7-0 and 8-0. Drogba, though, is under no illusions that plenty of tougher tests lie ahead if the Blues are to remain the team to beat.
"It is important for us to keep playing the way we did last year, but we must also try to improve because it is going to be harder," the 32-year-old said. "We are champions and this season is going to be really difficult.
"All of the other teams are improving in terms of bringing in new players. However, our team is really hungry. We may have not signed a lot of players, but we still have quality players and now we have Yossi (Benayoun) and Ramires too."
"It is too early to send a message - the only message it has sent out is to ourselves because it shows that although we are not yet fit, we can still play football."
Like the other Chelsea players who were in action at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ - including England trio Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole - Drogba has not had much time to prepare for the rigours of a new Premier League season. The Côte d'Ivoire striker, who had recent surgery to clear up a long-standing hernia problem, believes yesterday's performance showed the squad's character.
"As I said last week, we are not ready yet and the most interesting thing is how we played," reflected Drogba, who was the English top flight's leading marksman last term with 29 goals. "We have the quality and identity of playing good football. This team is capable of coping with difficult times - when we are in good condition it will be easier for us to win games."
Ancelotti described yesterday's result as "nothing special" and believes when everyone is fully fit, Chelsea can further improve. "We had to give our players who were involved in the World Cup some extra holiday," the Italian said.
"It was necessary for them to have a good recovery and we knew that we could not put them into the first game of pre-season. Against West Brom, they showed a good condition, maybe not the best, but now they have time to arrive at their best."