Chelsea were unable to break through a wonderful defensive display from Sunderland, who avoided defeat for the fourth-straight game since losing 2-0 at the Stadium of Light to Arsenal. Although the visitors dropped a couple of points, they are still top of the League and lead by seven points, albeit having played a game more.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
1.Could’ve been much worse for the Blues
Before the game, all the talk was about how the Blues were going to finish the season unbeaten and smash the record points tally in the Premier League. But Mourinhos knew, better than anyone else about the perils of complacency and said so in his interview in the build-up to the game. Sunderland after all, were the first side to inflict a home League defeat on the Chelsea manager last season and had beaten them twice, both home and away.
In the grand scheme of things, a point from the Stadium of Light might be a point gained than two lost, but there is no denying the fact that it could’ve been much much worse for the visitors. Although Diego Costa will miss the mid-week game against Spurs after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season, the Spaniard was lucky to still be on the pitch after two separate incidents which could’ve both seen him get a red card on another day. And had the home side taken one of their chances at the end, Chelsea would’ve lost more than their record of having scored in every League game so far.
2. Poyet gets his tactics spot on
“It would have taken something very special from them to beat us.” When your manager utters these words after the game, you know that your side have done a brilliant job defensively. Solid, resolute, compact, those were words that not many thought they would say about Sunderland, especially after back-to-back losses against Southampton and Arsenal with an aggregate score line of 10-0.
But in the four games since then, the Black Cats have conceded just 2 goals and have picked up six points. Given Chelsea’s attacking prowess, Gus Poyet knew that the only way his side was going to get anything out of the game was to sit deep, soak up the pressure and hit on the break. And that is precisely what Sunderland did to almost perfection. In fact, had Adam Johnson taken his chance at the end, they could’ve even snatched a win, but in the end, they have had to settle for just one.
3. Variety is key for Chelsea
Why fix something when it ain’t broke. Unbeaten so far this season, there was absolutely no reason for Mourinho to change his side for the game against Sunderland. Except, there was. Although the Blues have been simply sublime in the League, they were just coming on the back of a trip to Germany in mid-week and a trip to the North East right after that was always going to be tricky.
The problem the visitors had against Sunderland wasn’t that the home side defended very well, which they did, but the fact that Mourinho’s men looked tired. And while that isn’t really an excuse for not beating a side who had won just once in the last six games, it certainly would’ve helped if the Blues had a fresh pair of legs on the pitch right from the start. Playing the same team every single week is a luxury that not many can afford, and so it mustn’t be taken lightly. But irrespective of how well you are playing, slight tinkering is always necessary, to keep both the body and mind fresh, but Mourinho didn’t do that at the Stadium of Light and paid the prize for it.