PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: WIGAN ATHLETIC V CHELSEA
In a two-part format fresh for the new season, club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton begin their preview of the first league game…
'They're off!' as we like to say on the occasion of the opening league match of the season, echoing the words of the first ever Chelsea Chronicle (the club's matchday magazine) in September 1905.
How proudly the man who wrote that phrase, Fred Parker, would have trumpeted the fact that Chelsea FC were the champions of Europe. 'It has a certain ring to it, does it not?' he might have said, while noting that, 'since Bayern, Chelsea have been buyin' new men to entertain the Stamford Bridge hordes.' (He loved puns.)
There will a little under 4,000 souls supporting the Champions League winners at the DW over Sunday lunch, a great following in difficult economic conditions. The chances are that they will see great new talents in Eden Hazard, who showed flashes of his brilliance in the last Sunday's Community Shield loss, and possibly the new star of Brazil, Oscar, along with incisive winger Marko Marin, who has been sidelined through injured.
On the way up, no doubt, contributions of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa will be assessed, relived and cherished. It rests with the new arrivals to provide memories that can supersede those produced by the dearly departed.
Despite last season's two trophies there is much that needs improving. Sixth place in the league (a ten-year low), 25 points shy of the two Manchester clubs, means there is a huge amount of ground to make up this campaign.
This is our second consecutive opening day game away from home. So many of last season's most vivid moments took place on opponents' territory last season - Benfica, Barcelona, Bayern...
Yet in the Premier League our travels often brought chill penury rather than the rich pickings of previous seasons. The start was inauspicious, Andre Villas-Boas becoming the first Chelsea manager not to win on opening day since Claudio Ranieri at home to Newcastle in 2001 - the last time the Blues finished in sixth place.
There were agonising defeats for Villas-Boas (and later Roberto Di Matteo) at Manchester United, QPR, Everton, West Brom, City, Liverpool, and far too many draws to threaten the title challengers with any substance.
Still, Chelsea have won nine of the last 10 opening day games and 11 of the last 13. Last season's goalless draw and the 1-1 draw against Newcastle in 2001 were the only occasions we failed to win all three points. Since the formation of the Premier League the Blues have enjoyed 12 wins, three defeats and five draws. Our last defeat was at Highfield Road in 1998 when Coventry City beat us 2-1.
The Latics, who finished seven points clear of relegation last season, have lost five of their opening day fixtures since promotion to the Premier League seven years ago. Their sole victory was at Aston Villa in 2009. Last season they drew 1-1 with Norwich at the DW.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v Sunderland 3pm
Fulham v Norwich 3pm
QPR v Swansea 3pm
Reading v Stoke 3pm
West Brom v Liverpool 3pm
West Ham v Aston Villa 3pm
Newcastle v Tottenham 5.30 ESPN
Wigan v Chelsea 1.30pm Sky Sports
Manchester City v Southampton 4pm Sky Sports
Everton v Manchester United 8pm Sky Sports
Last season's table
WE HAVE HISTORY
The Blues visit the DW Stadium for the eighth time in the Premier League having won five of our previous meetings there. The Chelsea victories include two late strikes that broke the hearts of the home side but sent the huge away following into ecstasy.
The first came on August 14 2005. José Mourinho's men arrived as champions, while the Latics were Premier League newborns. It was not so much a baptism of fire for the novices as a lesson in the top flight's harshness.
The Blues were lacklustre for much of the game, two men, unusually, making way at half-time, but the spirited Lancastrians grew into the match, looking the more likely to break the deadlock as the second half progressed.
As the hosts' spirit of adventure took over, Chelsea suddenly exposed gaps and reaped full benefit. Argentine forward Hernan Crespo had been brought on with half an hour to go, but his impact came in stoppage time.
Didier Drogba came roving back and twice won aerial challenges to find the South American just outside the box. Crespo wrong-footed defenders to create space and curled a beautiful left-footed shot high over Mike Pollitt in the Wigan goal. The whistle went soon after and Wigan were crestfallen.
The Latics traded punches more successfully shortly before Christmas 2006. Frank Lampard and Salomon Kalou had established an easy two goal lead for the Londoners, before Emile Heskey turned the match with two unlikely strikes, the second from an offside position.
For the final 15 minutes of normal time the two sides failed to break the deadlock, then Arjen Robben, often a tormentor of Wigan's full-backs, went on one of his weaving runs, finishing with a long, low shot that first surprised, then beat goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. Seconds later, the game finished: 3-2 to Chelsea.
Even our last meeting at Stamford Bridge was decided by a 93rd minute strike from Juan Mata after a clever one-two with Drogba. It was such a dull game at times that a pigeon lingered in the Wigan penalty area for several minutes before being scared off by a cross. 'Pigeon for England!' cried The Shed.
Wigan's only victory against the Blues was in September 2009 when they won 3-1 against 10 men Chelsea after Petr Cech was sent off in the 51st minute. Their scorers were Titus Bramble, Hugo Rodallega (pen) and Paul Scharner.
The Latics only other home win against Chelsea on home turf was in the 1981/82 League Cup third round when they won 4-2 at their old Springfield Park ground.
All our away league meetings at Wigan
2005/06 - Chelsea won 1-0
2006/07 - Chelsea won 3-2
2007/08 - Chelsea won 2-0
2008/09 - Chelsea won 1-0
2009/10 - Wigan won 3-1
2010/11 - Chelsea won 6-0
2011/12 - Drew 1-1
Other match last season
7 April 2012 Stamford Bridge
Chelsea ……………2 Wigan……………1
Ivanovic 61 Diamé 82
Wigan Athletic v Chelsea in all competitions
Games played 19
Wigan wins 3
Head-to-head in the League at the DW Stadium
Games played 7
Chelsea wins 5
Wigan wins 1
Biggest league win at Wigan for each team
Wigan 3-1 Chelsea - 26/09/2009
Wigan 0-6 Chelsea - 21/08/2010
Chelsea lost on the opening day: 5,118
Wigan won at home on the opening day: 4,761
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,647
Liverpool won the league: 8,142
Visit tomorrow for part two of the Pre-Match Briefing.