Didier Drogba believes Chelsea have claimed a precious psychological edge over their Premier League title rivals by completing a full set of wins over Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal already this season.
Sunday’s 3-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates left Carlo Ancelotti’s side five points clear of United in what most pundits now expect to be a two-horse title race.
Arsenal are now 11 points off the pace, albeit with a game in hand over the leaders, and Drogba, who scored twice on Sunday, was quick to underline the significance of the latest win over one of Chelsea’s direct title rivals.
“Arsenal played their game, but we were stronger than them,” the Ivory Coast striker said. “Every time we had the chance to score we did. We took our chances.
“Physically we defended well and were really strong, mentally as well. I don’t know about Arsenal, but it is our strength to perform when it matters.
“Even against Manchester United, when the game was really difficult, we won. We know how to go through difficult periods when the game is hard.
“That is why when we get a chance we know how important it is to score.”
Drogba acknowledged that the five-point advantage over United could be eroded quickly if Chelsea do not keep winning, but believes the pressure is greater for the chasing club.
“The lead is not enough, but at the same time it’s a good gap,” Drogba said. “We have to keep winning our games.
“When you are top of the league, it is good – the others have to chase us. They have to produce and do more than us to win games.
“It is true that Manchester are still there. We were in their position last year, behind and chasing. It is very difficult and now they have to come and catch us. I hope we have the team to stay ahead for the rest of the season.”
While Drogba scored two of Chelsea’s three goals, the contribution of former Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was just as significant with the England left-back providing the crosses that led to the striker’s opener and a Thomas Vermaelen own goal.
It was the perfect response to the boos Cole received from the Arsenal fans who have never forgiven him for his 2006 move across London and his team-mate Frank Lampard suggested Gunners fans might think twice before doling out the abuse in future.
“I don’t think booing ever works,” Lampard said. “I don’t know when people will learn that it’s not the way to do it.
“Putting all your efforts into just getting someone psyched up to do a good job against your team is obviously the wrong way to go about it.
“Ash is very experienced with dealing with it – he’s had it a few times now and it obviously spurs him on to put in performances like he did.
“He’s shown his quality for a long time. For probably the last two years he’s been completely out on his own as the best left-back in the world.”