Chelsea's 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion represented something of a return to the glory days of... several months ago, when Chelsea were more than capable of simply demolishing teams, no matter how defensively they lined up or whether or not they were at Stamford Bridge. West Bromwich Albion had been one of the Premier League's form teams as of late, but despite getting an early goal the were simply brushed aside by the visiting
Blues Neon Greens and were ultimately lucky to lose by just two goals.
Carlo Ancelotti returned his side to the 4-3-3 shape employed before the acquisition of Fernando Torres, choosing a midfield of Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, and John Obi Mikel while Didier Drogba spearheaded the attack. Chelsea's midfield has long been far better in a 4-3-3 shape, and its return boded well for a strong performance at the Hawthorns. Meanwhile Roy Hodgson dropped the 4-4-2 used to secure a win at the Stadium of Light, opting to go back to a 4-5-1 with Peter Odemwingie as the long forward, hoping to hit Chelsea on the counterattack.
Hodgson's plan seemed to be working to perfection in the early stages, with his organised defence frustrating Chelsea's efforts to come forwards, and things only got better for the home side as Odemwingie took advantage of an absolutely horrible set of defensive errors from more or less the entire Chelsea back line to race into a one on one with Petr Cech. The Nigerian deftly chipped the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to give the home side the lead and send Chelsea into disarray.
The visitors recovered quickly from the setback, however, reasserting themselves as the ones in charge of the match. Attack after attack rained down, and it wasn't long before Chelsea were back on level terms after Florent Malouda surged down the left and sent in a low cross that Scott Carson couldn't collect. Inexplicably, the ball was rolled back across the penalty area by left back Nicky Shorey, leaving Didier Drogba with an open net from eight yards out. He was never going to miss that.
Within two minutes, it was 2-1 Chelsea, Salomon Kalou collecting a spilled Drogba shot and firing home a neat finish from a tight angle and rather making up for several hideously poor 'shots' he'd tried earlier on in the match. By now it was patently obvious that Chelsea were going to cruise to an easy win - all that was left was to establish a reasonable cushion and then get Fernando Torres involved.
Frank Lampard provided that cushion at the stroke of half time. The midfielder had been on the periphery for most of the early stages, but a free kick attempt that nearly went in (it was well-saved by Carson) seemed to invigorate him, and he was on hand with a trademark late run into the penalty area to bury a low show past Carson to make it 3-1 at the interval.
The second half was much the same as the first, only Chelsea didn't bother scoring. Malouda had the ball in the back of the net early only to see his effort ruled out for offside, and several other players came close as well. Eventually, Carlo sent in both Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres to see if the Spaniard could finally break his Chelsea duck. Torres had just eight minutes to try to find a goal, and to his amazement he got one, rounding Carson and slotting home with a deft touch. To his horror, it was ruled out (correctly, but very marginally) for offside. Torres then turned off, and the rest of the match was a little bit of a waste.
Still, it was good to see Chelsea dominate a team that had caused more or less everyone severe problems this year. This is the best they've looked since at least the Sunderland away match, and probably since Blackpool in September. While Torres might not have got his goal, Chelsea did get their win, securing their hold on third spot in the table after 32 games. They're now eight points behind Manchester United - but they're also eight again of Tottenham Hotspur, who must still come to Stamford Bridge.
All in all, not a bad day's work.