Has the air of invincibility left Stamford Bridge?
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Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has said the whole team must shoulder the blame for their surprising 3-0 Premier League defeat at home to Sunderland.
“As a team we didn’t play well,” Cech said. “It was not because individuals were missing and the back four was changed – it was everybody’s mistake.
“We were not compact enough, we were just all over the place and that’s why they had those chances and unfortunately for us they took two of them and the third goal I don’t even count as it’s just one of those things that when everything can go wrong does go wrong.” (Daily Telegraph)
Chelsea could have lost by even more to Sunderland on Sunday. The three goal margin did not flatter the Black Cats.
However, in fairness to Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues team, they were missing some key players.
John Terry and Alex were out, meaning a centre half partnership of Branislav Ivanovic and Paulo Ferreira had to play, while Michael Essien and Frank Lampard were also absent.
A midfield trio of John Obi Mikel, Ramires and Yuri Zhirkov appears neither balanced nor incisive. Not one of those players is a strong tackler, a creative player, or a big goal threat. Each is a jack of all trades, but a master of none – though Ramires deserves more time to settle to prove his worth.
However, Steve Bruce’s game plan worked brilliantly – and he has clearly learned from his similar tactical approach against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Knowing most of Chelsea’s threat comes through Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda on their left hand side, Bruce asked Kieran Richardson to tail Cole throughout the match, while Nedum Onuoha tracked Malouda.
With no Lampard or Essien in midfield, there was far less threat on the right hand side of the Chelsea midfield, and Jose Bosingwa found himself penned back by the high pressing Sunderland forwards.
This meant Chelsea could not build from the back in their usual fashion, and often resorted to a longer ball in panic.
The question is, once Chelsea get their big players back, would Bruce’s tactics be a universal approach to take them on, or will they be safe in the knowledge that their best is the match for anyone?