LONDON ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14: Ramires of Chelsea looks dejected as Sunderland celebrate as Nedum Onuoha scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on November 14 2010 in London England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Just a couple of comments about the miserable 3-0 loss to Sunderland yesterday - Zonal Marking will have a full analysis at some point today so I don't really feel like watching the match again to make an inferior version.
Chelsea were poor, but Sunderland were excellent. No team in recent memory has humiliated the Blues to this extent on our home turf, and this sort of thing cannot be easily explained by selection problems. Chelsea had a weak side and were poor, but Sunderland were excellent in all facets of the game. Trying to single any of them out for praise is probably futile, but I was particularly impressed with Asamoah Gyan, Kieran Richardson, and Bolo Zenden. Richardson in particular did an excellent job of pressing back Ashley Cole on the Chelsea left. I can be pissed off at my team, but it would churlish to fail to acknowledge Sunderland's inspired performance. The result was well deserved.
It wasn't Ray Wilkins. I know people have been trying to be clever in saying that Abrahimovich might regret the board's decision to release Wilkins midweek, but it's not him determining personnel and tactics, and he's certainly not on the field. Besides, go back a week, and Chelsea have... another humiliating loss. Oh.
There are only so many injuries we can absorb. With something approaching a first-choice, lineup, Chelsea are devastating - remember those 6-0 wins that opened the season? However, Didier Drogba has been suffering from malaria and is clearly off the pace, both first choice centre-backs are injured, Jose Bosingwa is still getting back to full strength following his knee problem, and we have more holes in the central midfield than a box of doughnuts (the ring kind, obviously). I have my suspicions that Florent Malouda isn't exactly 100% either. With Chelsea's injury list, they can't rotate and rest players, leading to... that.
Frank Lampard is great, but losing Michael Essien is very very bad news. We've lost with Essien in the lineup, a close 1-0 game at Manchester City. We've also drawn 0-0 against Aston Villa. However, in the two league games where Essien hasn't featured, Chelsea have lost to both Sunderland and Liverpool by a combined score of 5-0. Without Lampard, we don't win blowout games - but we still win. Without Essien, things don't seem to go so well. That red card was a really, really, really stupid idea.
Josh McEachran needs a chance. Yuri Zhirkov has done pretty well in central midfield but is clearly playing out of position. Ramires has been a disaster. It's time to figure out what the kids can do, and from what we've seen so far, they can do a lot.
We're still top of the league. We've been in first place since the start of the season and despite a pitiful week or so are still in an enviable position. So as embarrassing as being slaughtered at home by Sunderland is, all is not lost*.
*Unless Ancelotti keeps playing Ramires. Yikes.