Chelsea were knocked out of the League Cup on Tuesday night by a battling Sunderland side who clinched victory in extra-time. Gus Poyet’s side weathered the storm against a generally dominant Chelsea and now progress to the semi-final of the competition despite being rock bottom of the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho’s men were once again victims of their own profligacy in front of goal, a recurring problem that has begun to concern the Portuguese boss. “The quality of football we produced is amazing,” Mourinho said after the match. “We never lost a match because we didn’t play or that the opponent was stronger, it’s just we don’t kill opponents and we give them life.”
In fact the Blues were unable to score a goal of their own after Lee Cattermole’s own goal gave them the lead in the 46th minute. After a late strike from Fabio Borini took the match to extra-time it was the Black Cats who appeared in the ascendancy and it was no great shock when Ki Sung-Yueng hammered in the winner sending the Stadium of Light into raptures and Chelsea out of the League Cup.
No doubt with Monday’s trip to Arsenal in mind, Mourinho opted to rest Fernando Torres (who has at least been showing vague signs of form recently) and start with Samuel Eto’o up front. The Cameroonian was generally ineffectual, however, and though Willian and Andre Schurrle had their moments in attack, none of the three could muster a goal. Eden Hazard and Demba Ba were introduced in the second half but they too struggled to make an impact against a determined and robust Sunderland side.
We have long been suggesting Mourinho may have to dip into the transfer market to buy a little more potency in the striking department, but he has denied he will be going down that road, in January at least. But with Torres having scored six goals from 17 appearances, Ba hitting three from 13 and Eto’o just four from 15, the Special One will be well aware his strikers will need to improve their goals to games ratio if the Blues are to have a realistic chance of challenging for the title.
While the side have been able to paper over the cracks in many of their matches so far this season thanks to goals from midfield (Hazard has notched eight thus far, Shurrle three and Oscar six), they could find themselves exposed at the Emirates on Monday. And with Liverpool and Southampton coming up on the 29th December and 1st January respectively, if things don’t go well over the festive period we could yet see Roman Abramovich dipping into his pockets in the New Year.
While being knocked out of the League Cup might actually be a blessing in disguise when it comes to the Premier League and Champions League later on, the fact that Chelsea failed to win the match from a position of apparent dominance is an issue that simply must be addressed if Chelsea are to enjoy success this term, and Mourinho will put all his efforts into doing just that, ideally before the Arsenal game.