Talking Tactics: Chelsea (A)

Mike Hewitt

Tactics? Who cares about tactics after a win like that? Well, there were one or two things worth considering in amidst the collective performance of grit and determination that saw Sunderland end Mourinho's unbeaten streak at the Bridge.

As much as we've discussed the positives and negatives of three central defenders or Poyet's philosophy, Saturday's win at Chelsea was all about collective determination and an old school backs to the wall performance. Individual errors prevented us from beating Manchester City on Wednesday night - where we were actually even better than we were at Stamford Bridge - but with those cut out and defensive solidity to the fore, Sunderland came through.

A return to Poyet's favoured 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 or whichever way you want to describe it has certainly helped. The players look more comfortable with their positioning and that certainly assisted with the organised defensive display that would see us through to victory.

From an attacking perspective, Sunderland benefitted from another wonderfully worked set piece and Poyet's excellent use of his substitutes' bench. The first goal was reminiscent of a handful of other well used corner kicks this season. It might not work every time, but when it does, you can see why Gus would rather his players take it short or to the edge of the box as opposed to just lumping it into the area.

Chelsea have a number of big, physical players and took the lead from a corner of their own. It's become a hallmark of our season to fail to defend set pieces particularly well and when Samuel Eto'o buried the opener, it looked like a Chelsea victory procession was on the cards.

Sunderland turned it around with a more subtle effort. Instead of swinging the ball into an area filled with those aforementioned Chelsea giants, the ball was sprayed to Marcos Alonso on the edge of the area. This dragged the Chelsea defence out towards him, but with nobody in a blue shirt able to block the ball, his shot was parried into an area where Connor Wickham was able to pounce.

This isn't the first time Sunderland have created and scored from short or slightly more elaborate corners. The first goal against Newcastle United in the home derby came from a short corner, which allowed Adam Johnson to work a better angle for a cross, whilst Ki Sung Yueng scored - albeit after a couple of deflections - at Fulham from a similar effort to the one at Chelsea.

It's not uncommon to hear groans at the Stadium of Light when this sort of routine is put into practice, or shouts of "just get it into the box" but how many times has whipping the ball in directly resulted in a Sunderland goal? Not many I can think of. We simply don't have the height or physique in the side to make the most of that type of delivery. I'd sooner see two or three failed nuanced efforts; at least it works sometimes.

The second goal came as a result of Jozy Altidore pouncing on a Chelsea mistake, charging into the box and being fouled. The American international has been frozen out of late, but came off the bench and had a hugely positive impact at Stamford Bridge. Another hallmark of Poyet's reign thus far was highlighted; good use of substitutions.

At Manchester City on Wednesday, it was the impact of Nacho Scocco and more prominently Emanuele Giaccherini that did the trick. The Italian also came on at Chelsea, but it was more of a surprise to see Altidore join him. Gus seems to have a knack of producing an impact from the bench. Like the corner routines, it might not work all of the time, but there is at least a thought process behind his actions and that after all, is the very essence of tactics.

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