Bowers - Play Him!
Don’t even think about it!
Victor Anichebe has became a vital part of Sunderland's team since he came into the side away at Bournemouth. You still can’t believe it, can you?
In truth he didn’t do very much on Saturday, but that was more down to the team not playing as well as they have done recently. But, even in a game where he was largely anonymous, he did spot Jordon Pickford’s superb goal kick in the first-half, controlled the ball and released Jermain Defoe to create the best chance in the game at that point.
The general consensus is that he was a strong contender for man-of-the-match at Bournemouth and in my opinion he was absolutely outstanding against Hull and Leicester; he was a key part in why we won both of those games.
One thing that has been noticeable is Anichebe’s partnership with Patrick van Aanholt down the left hand side, if he does play there.
We all know we are barely going to have any of the ball against Chelsea and, at times, we are going to have to lump it forward to relieve the pressure on our defence. Without Anichebe on the pitch, retaining the ball further forward will be difficult. It sounds obvious, but Anichebe's sheer presence will massively help our defenders to have a breather.
Anichebe has demonstrated good work rate, helping the team to defend when it has been needed. If this is the case against Chelsea it will give van Aanholt, one of our most threatening players, license to go forward in those rare moments when we do attack.
If he is more involved upfront, Anichebe will give Chelsea’s defenders something to worry about. David Luis and Gary Cahill have played together in central defence for Chelsea’s last eleven Premier League games as part of a back three with Cesar Azpilicueta - I maybe clutching optimistically at straws here but I feel Anichebe would give them problems, bring other players into the forward play and create chances for Defoe if we can get behind them.
Anichebe's inclusion would significantly increase our chances of getting something tomorrow night - he simply has to start.
Micky - Rest Him!
Given the situation that we are in, the mere suggestion of resting one of our most in-form players may seem absurd. But honestly, hear me out.
Sunderland play five matches over the festive period and although we are without that usually annoying game sandwiched in between Christmas and New Year, things are still hectic. Therefore, we are going to have to manage our players well to ensure they don’t burn out.
One player who we certainly need to monitor closely is Victor Anichebe. And although he has largely stayed injury free since making his first start in a red and white shirt, his past record suggests that caution is the best policy.
In his three years at West Brom the Nigerian international made just 25 starts and 30 substitute appearances - that works out at roughly eight starts a season. Whether this is due to injury or lack of form, it wouldn’t suggest that Big Vic is capable of starting games on a consistent basis.
With this in mind, we must pick and choose which matches he starts and whilst I’m not arrogant enough to think we are in any position to sacrifice the chance of points for a long term benefit, I feel the upcoming game against Chelsea is an ideal one for him to sit out.
Realistically, we will struggle to pick up anything against Chelsea whether Anichebe starts or not and a grueling ninety minutes against Conte’s side could leave him feeling fatigued for the visit of Watford, which you have to admit appears to be the fixture out of the two that we are more likely to get points from.
Luckily, the decision to rest him could be made easier by the return of Fabio Borini. The Italian, whilst not having the same physical attributes as Anichebe, is still equally as industrious and has an eye for a goal. He also has a knack of coming up with vital goals an upping his game against the bigger sides - particularly against Chelsea.
If things go well on Wednesday and we are still in the game with around half an hour remaining, we could always bring Vic off the bench to cause some havoc in the latter stages, which in turn would also manage Borini’s injury.
In an ideal world, I would love Anichebe to start every remaining fixture for the lads, but this realistically will not happen - we have to manage him carefully, particularly when we have many games in such a short space of time.