"Everyone thinks they have the most beautiful wife at home," Arsène Wenger remarked when Sir Alex Ferguson attempted to argue that, although Arsenal had won the championship in 2002, Manchester United had played the better football. Nobody ever called Chelsea beautiful. Even when José Mourinho shifted the balance of power in London to Stamford Bridge, his teams were still portrayed as the great clunking fist.
Arsenal might have missed out on the trophies, but they were still English football's undisputed stylists, using it as a comfort blanket just as those bands whose record sales will never match those of an X Factor winner pore over their glittering reviews in the NME. No longer.
It is not just the sheer quantity of Chelsea's goals – 29 in their past five league matches – that is remarkable, but their quality. The first against Wigan featured a beautiful, surprisingly delicate touch from Didier Drogba, pulled back by Ashley Cole for Frank Lampard, who brought it instinctively under control. His shot was saved, but Florent Malouda rolled the rebound into the net. It was Chelsea's first attack of any note and the game was 33 minutes old.
"It is difficult to know why people think that Arsenal play the better football," Malouda said. "Even when we finished top, people still said Arsenal played better than us. But you are seeing an evolution since the manager [Carlo Ancelotti] came in. We are scoring more goals and keeping more clean sheets and that is what it is all about if you want to win the league.
"You have to be efficient but, when you see a team like Chelsea scoring so many goals, I hope people recognise our quality. But we are not playing for glory; we are playing to win. You can say we have a killer instinct because we know that, if we have any kind of opportunity, we have to kill the game.
During France's catastrophic World Cup, Malouda was the footballer most usually pushed in front of the cameras to explain the latest reverse – a role Lampard is usually given with England. Here, in the corridors of the DW Stadium, Malouda explained how Ancelotti encouraged his players to continually keep moving. How Drogba dropped deeper to release Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka, who each scored twice as Wigan, having more than held their own in the first half, disintegrated.
Kalou, he said, "could feel where the ball was going to be". It is, as Ancelotti pointed out, probably no coincidence that so many of his players returned early from the World Cup and spent the rest of the summer nursing their hurt.
"If you have character, then after a problem you must be motivated, but I think the English players are taking more motivation from the World Cup," he said. "John Terry, Lampard and Cole are showing very good physical condition." The first of that trio, however, may have been fortunate not to have been dismissed after becoming embroiled in a spat with Charles N'Zogbia while on a yellow card.
It is not essential to have come home early from South Africa to shine – Bastian Schweinsteiger, the surging force behind Germany's campaign, scored Bayern Munich's winner against Wolfsburg on Friday night. However, it probably helps. As does the fact that Chelsea are a team that not only go for the jugular, but look to tear the carcass apart.
Last season they scored four goals or more against 12 of their opponents and have begun this campaign with a pair of 6-0 romps. Roman Abramovich's gripes about the lack of entertainment he got for his roubles seem very distant, although Ancelotti would know they contributed to the downfall of first Mourinho and then Luiz Felipe Scolari.
"We play for 90 minutes because people who come to the stadium pay to watch 90 minutes," is how Ancelotti responded when asked why Chelsea do not ease off when the game is palpably won – something Arsenal were wont to do.
Wigan have negotiated heavy defeats before under Roberto Martínez and they were the better side for extended periods of the first half. However, their humbling by the supposed sacrificial offering that is Blackpool and the fact that on Saturday they travel to Spurs, where they lost 9-1 in November, have meant the first chimes of a crisis have begun to crackle through the DW Stadium. Titus Bramble suddenly seems a great, lost leader and should he and Sunderland win here on 11 September that crisis may be unmanageable.
Man of the match Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
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