Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea reaffirmed their Premier League title credentials this afternoon, hammering Sunderland 7-2 at Stamford Bridge.
Many points can be drawn from the game, with many highlighting the emphatic result came without the club’s contingent of African stars, who are currently in Angola at the Africa Cup of Nations. But there are two others that really stand out for me: Sunderland’s terrible defending and Ancelotti’s tactical flexibility.
Without trying to take too much away from Chelsea, seven goals seemed to flatter the home side slightly. Watching the highlights on Match of the Day, many of the goals came from poor defensive play.
Lorik Cana was playing out of position, and it showed—he played like a central midfielder at the heart of Sunderland’s normally shaky defence.
On top of that, Marton Fulop was indecisive in goal. Ashley Cole’s take was superb, but the ball forward to play him through was high and looping, Fulop should have come to collect. He didn’t and was indecisive from that moment on, when Cole skipped past the defender and shot, it was a saveable attempt.
Florent Malouda ran unchallenged straight at the Sunderland defence, and his shot should have been saved by Fulop—the ‘keeper wasn’t at full stretch and marginally missed the shot. Frank Lampard’s first was the result of poor marking in the middle, and his second saw Fulop hopelessly out of position hugging his lefthand post when the cross came in.
Nicolas Anelka’s second was the result of an inexplicable punch by the Hungarian ‘keeper.
I don’t want to criticise Sunderland too harshly, they were playing two inexperienced central midfielders against Lampard, Michael Ballack, and Juliano Belletti. Midfield domination was an inevitable conclusion; Chelsea enjoyed 70 percent of possession.
In the same vein, even in light of terrible defending, a team has to create chances and score goals. At times it was way too easy, but Chelsea do deserve credit for being clinical.
Another man who deserves credit is Carlo Ancelotti. Many, including myself, expected the Italian to stubbornly persist with his diamond formation through January. The former AC Milan boss sprung a surprise on everybody, not least Steve Bruce, by playing 4-4-3.
Ancelotti effectively outfoxed Bruce with this decision. At times you’d see Steed Malbranque tucking in to try and congest the centre of the field, and Chelsea simply played their way down the left flank. Malbranque doesn’t have the mobility or the stamina to get across and cover, the rest was academic.
Sunderland were playing with tactics to stifle the diamond, and Chelsea played with more width than they had all season.
The Black Cats have real problems and are quickly sinking down the Premier League table.