Any football fan could have been forgiven for thinking that Sunderland’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday would be a forgone conclusion. I myself would be the first to admit that I expected a Chelsea victory; that is until I saw the team sheets roughly an hour before kick off, at which point my thoughts began to alter.
For a start, Chelsea’s bench screamed inexperience, with the exception of Salomon Kalou of course. The likes of Van Aanholt, Kakuta, Bruma, McEachran and Sala suggested that if this game wasn’t going Chelsea’s way it might be very difficult to spark a comeback using the substitutes that were available on the day.
In terms of Chelsea’s starting lineup, it would be fair to say that despite a catalogue of injuries/suspensions they had enough quality on paper to defeat a Sunderland side enjoying a rich vain of form in recent weeks. The always reliable Peter Cech was present on the team sheet, as were Chelsea’s lethal strike force of Drogba and Anelka. Chelsea’s midfield consisted of the influential Malouda and the robust frame of Mikel. Apart from the aforementioned names however one could begin to see the areas in which Sunderland could exploit Chelsea on the day.
The absence of what is essentially the spine of Chelsea’s side I believe has a real influence on Chelsea in terms of their mental preparation. Looking down to see the list of absentees which included John Terry, Alex, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard must have had a detrimental effect to Chelsea and a positive one on Sunderland.
Ramires has struggled so far to live up to his £20m price tag. Undoubtedly the player has an outstanding talent; something that has been evident in his most recent International appearances for Brazil. He seems to have struggled to transfer this scintillating form into Club football. Another weakness I spotted was the inclusion of Paulo Ferreira at centre back. Ferreira is of course a full-back by trade, but the absence of John Terry meant he was certainly outside of his comfort zone, something that must have had Wellbeck and Gyan licking their lips!
Fianally, Jose Bosingwa’s recent return from injury means he is by no means match-fit, something that the aged yet energetic frame of Bolo Zenden will have undoubtedly noticed.
Steve Bruce set up a team with the pure intention of winning, an admirable thing to do when facing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. After the humiliating 5-1 defeat to rival’s Newcastle Sunderland fans were due a bold tactical move. A particularly notable decision was to play 2 strikers; something I am quite sure no other team has done at Stamford Bridge this season. Perhaps this is why Chelsea until Sunday had not conceded a solitary goal in the Premier League at Home this season. The absence of Darren Bent meant that the young Danny Wellbeck was drafted into the fold alongside record signing Asamoah Gyan. Backed up by a dynamic midfield pairing of Lee Cattermole and Jordan Henderson mean that the Black Cats certainly had the making of an upset.
Sure enough, as the game unfolded Chelsea’s frailties began to surface. Henderson never stopped running and really ensured that Chelsea’s midfield endured a tiring afternoon. Likewise Cattermole’s physical yet fair approach left the likes of Mikel in a real physical battle.
Onuoha, Gyan and Wellbeck were the goalscorer’s on a day that Sunderland really showed what they are capable of. Sunderland had 9 attempts on target to Chelsea’s 7; and 10 attempts off target to Chelsea’s 7. Whilst basic statistics cannot paint a real picture of a match, they certainly indicate which team created the most opportunities to win the match. Significantly, after 90 minutes Sunderland edged Chelsea on possession (53% to 47%). Essien and Lampard, arguably two of the best passers of the ball in the league may have caused this statistic to change. It goes to show that Sunderland’s work ethic and desire to regain possession of the ball was far greater than Chelsea’s.
Finally a solid performance from Sunderland’s Michael Turner meant that Drogba and Anelka could not benefit from the space they work so hard to create. Turner’s performances of late have in my opinion warranted a call-up to the England squad, however clearly Fabio Capello doesn’t see things the way I do!
So, Chelsea now face two away matches in the Premier League at St Andrew’s and St James’ Park, certainly two games that pose a threat. Essien will return and I see this making a huge difference to Chelsea. Likewise the return of John Terry (the player we all love to hate) will psychologically boost the whole side. As for Sunderland, home matches against Everton and West Ham beckon; two games they would now possibly expect to win. I hope that Steve Bruce continues to believe that ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’! Meanwhile Carlo Ancelotti needs to pray that Terry and Essien are as right as rain come Saturday, where another potential banana-skin awaits!
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